It’s hard for us to be totally objective about Raleigh Ritchie. No, not because we’re attached to Jacob Anderson’s alter-ego as Grey Worm on Game of Thrones (which we are anyway, because fuck angering Khaleesi). But having chatted at length with the man and his affable self – a comic book-loving, overgrown kid feeling his way through the wilderness with cheeky charm – it instantly begs the question of how autobiographical his debut album You’re A Man Now, Boy really is. Or whether he’s cornering the Bar Mitzvah market. But most likely the former.
“I wanna live forever,” he sings on the opener Werld Is Mine. Immediately there’s that sentiment again – sure, Anderson has got his beats big enough to fill out a stadium, big brass and everything, but hidden behind the bombast are those childlike fantasies and deliberate misspellings of ‘world’. It’s reiterated again on his breakthrough track Stronger Than Ever (“‘cos I’m a big boy” with “delusions grand”), lending his brand of pop an air of vulnerability that most acts can’t muster after years, never mind on a debut.
That very evident heart-on-sleeve behaviour is what makes Anderson’s debut shine, and a trait that makes rooting for him so easy. So when his marriage of form and delivery register perfectly on the triumphant trilogy of Keep It Simple, Never Better and The Greatest, it’s almost a relief to hear a radio-ready sound matching the balance of Brit-drawl impishness (“move to the suburbs with grass roads/ away from the stubborn city arseholes”) and middle-class adolescent ennui (“even my fucking therapist couldn’t get my name right”). Of course, it helps that we’re suckers for the strings that Anderson employs so damn brilliantly on each of these, but his cornerstones of songwriting are certainly no small matter.
If Anderson can sidestep the ‘actor turned musician’ millstone, there’s certainly a lot to be said to proffer him as the voice of a disenchanted generation, almost the way Lily Allen was when she first emerged. Even though it essentially seems like a long letter to himself, Raleigh Ritchie is a voice that we’ve all been able to relate to at some point, whether it’s on Cowards (with it’s quirky “hi – hello – ok” punctuation) or the quotable one-liners of A Moor. To be able to capture the joy and strife of youth is quite an accomplishment in itself; to do so on a bed of immaculate beats and arena-sized choruses is just plain ridiculous. Whether he’s a man now or not is probably best answered by Raleigh Ritchie himself, but from our point of view he’s certainly ready to play with the big boys.