Album reviews: Will Young – Crying on the Bathroom Floor, and Fredo – Independence Day

Will Young shows his good taste on an album of covers, while Fredo pushes forward with a new record putting his foray into pop behind him

Roisin O'Connor,Annabel Nugent
Wednesday 04 August 2021 14:46
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<p>Will Young in artwork for his new album</p>

Will Young in artwork for his new album

Will Young – Crying on the Bathroom Floor

★★★☆☆

“I wanted to do poppier versions of these songs – make them a bit more radio, basically,” Will Young told The Independent of his new album of covers. “That’s what I do. I operate in that mainstream world.” It’s hard not to wince at that statement when you consider how all of his song choices are by female artists. Just last year, a report showed that of the top 100 songs by British artists to feature in the UK charts between January and August, only 19 per cent were by female acts. Many of the songs on this album were the artists’ highest-charting singles – not one of them managed to top the charts. And here’s Will Young, ready to show the girls how it’s done. Be a bloke, basically.

That’s not to say these covers aren’t good – some of them are great. Young evidently has excellent taste and has picked some less-obvious tracks by artists including Solange, MUNA, Robyn and Sky Ferreira. He opens on a yearning “Daniel” by Bat for Lashes, before a sweeping rendition of MUNA’s “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” that has a touch of Annie Lennox about it. His version of “Strong” by London Grammar lacks the subtlety of the original; it’s more polished, less visceral. Solange’s “Losing You” is sapped of its chaotic energy and becomes that touch too saccharine in his hands. His “Missing”, though, by Everything But the Girl, brings in gorgeously layered harmonies as Young presides over a purposeful piano hook.

Just over 10 years ago, his label reportedly took issue with a music video in which he danced with a male mannequin. The fact he is able to celebrate his sexuality now means these songs transcend the bog-standard cover version and become something far more moving. It will be very interesting to see how this album performs in the charts, compared to the originals. But it’s testament to Young’s emotional maturity, along with his pop savvy, that this does stand as an album in its own right. ROC

Fredo – Independence Day

★★★

Since his 2016 breakout single “They Ain’t 100”, Fredo has set out on a mostly successful mission to establish his name among the heavy hitters of the UK’s rap scene. A mission that has included a critically acclaimed debut album (Third Avenue), a British No 1 with Dave (“Funky Friday”) and an appearance on Netflix’s Top Boy soundtrack.

The 27-year-old has been busy this year. Independence Day is the second release he’s put out in six months. With his new record, the rapper – real name Marvin William Bailey – continues to put distance between his brief but loathed foray into pop (no one mention last year’s misstep “Hickory Dickory Dock”). Independence Day is back-to-basics. Basics for Fredo being authenticity, grit and a punchy delivery.

Of course, there are the customary nods to his flashy new lifestyle (“New problems that I’m faced with when the guala comes / Picking out the Rollie or the AP, that’s a common one”). But there are also frequent glimpses of vulnerability here. “Where I’m from, I can’t even lie, them prisons are fate,” Fredo muses alongside Headie One on the drum heavy, drill-leaning “Wandsworth to Bullingdon”, which sees the two rappers exchange verses reflecting on their stints serving time. At 14 tracks, the album is one of Fredo’s longest and yet it still manages to feel concise. Independence Day is another push forward for Fredo – a mostly solid follow-up from a rapper continuing to hone his voice. AN

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