Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Lewis Capaldi

  • Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent [Capitol, 2019] A-
  • Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent [Capitol, 2023] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent [Capitol, 2019]
Although he shares the writing with an array of minor U.K. song doctors, this very male, unassumingly unsexist 22-year-old Scot deploys his big open white-soul voice with an originality so built-in few outside his growing female fanbase will notice. His secret weapon is that he's no dreamboat, a step or two less sexy than melodic everyman Ed Sheeran--shlubby, blokeish, with white socks, black shoes, and just-woke-up hair, he looks and acts like a goofy guy who does truly need a fangirl's love. And although more of his songs excavate romance's pain than celebrate its bliss, they come with plenty of self-examination and minimal blaming the other: even the opening "I'm not ready to be just another of your mistakes" is pretty mild, and then there's "I was getting kind of used to being someone you loved," "How come I'm the only one who seems to get in my way," and "I'm sayin' thank you to the one who let her get away." While it's likely every one of these lines has been uttered verbatim somewhere somehow, they're each one perfect, and putting them all on one album is a feat of uncommon emotional intelligence. My fond belief is that every word is Capaldi's. The song doctors just made sure they're catchy enough. A-

Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent [Capitol, 2023]
When I finally took the plunge and back-to-backed this with Harry's House, I was pleased to conclude that while Capaldi's 2019 debut was strong, this follow-up is a triumph I admire even more than I do Styles's estimable consensus fave. Moreover, it's in a mode I've never had much use for: the power ballad. Formally we're talking Celine Dion and Michael Bolton only with more character, variation, and textural range, or if you want to stretch it try Springsteen or Garth Brooks or even Ray Charles--tempos moderate, vocals pushed, jokes sparse to nonexistent. This last matters because in concert Capaldi plays his tween-song material for laughs he gets on a scale with John Prine or Loudon Wainwright only they write their share of funny lyrics where Capaldi's material is soaked in lovestruck avowal, romantic angst, and emotional apercu--which for some reason generate a credibility the likes of Bolton and Dion seldom succeed in selling skeptics and intellectuals like Prine and Wainwright shy away from. A