The days when Britain’s synthpop royalty and androgynous rock-gods conquered the earth is ancient-pop history. Sure we’ve got our Adeles and our Sheerens, but their particular craft is ‘pop’ , as to mean ‘popular music’. But as for pop, in its true form – fantastical, fun, glitzy, gorgeous, often danceable – it’s no longer a great British export. The grime-sters are doing wonderful things pop-wise, but only in the UK; what we’re looking for is a world-beater.
Enter Southampton singer-songwriter Louisa Rose Allen, AKA Foxes, who off the back of global hits like ‘Body Talk’ and Zedd collaboration ‘Clarity’ joins an A-List of Brit fresh young things – Chvrches, Charlie XCX – currently bringing cool, vital and sexy pop-proper back to Britain. On ‘All I Need’, Allen’s second album after last year’s debut ‘Glorious’, the girl rises to the plate and then some.
This is pop music straight from the British grassroots – personal and organic, fresh and contemporary without being beholden to Charlie XCX’s patchwork of underground hipster touchstones – but ‘All I Need’ is also just as universal, satisfyingly expensive-sounding and lustrous as any soulless blockbuster cast from the musical establishment.
‘Body Talk’ remains the standout, but every track here could work as a single, from the modern Soca of ‘Cruel’ to ‘Wicked Love’ and its light indie-pop stylings. ‘Better Love’, written with Bastille’s Dan Smith, is a homegrown anthem, while ‘If You Leave Me Now’ is hugely commendable for doing 80s pop melodrama without, for once, resorting to pastiche.
Generally speaking the post-Harris rave pop of ‘Glorious’ has been jettisoned for something a little more tasteful, but no less ‘pop’. ’Money’ is the ‘All I Need’ template in microcosm: inspirational big-chorus pop on a bed of militant drums and soaring atmospherics, designed to convey steely resolve and indomitable hope. An album about regaining confidence after love’s demise, Allen has been doing some growing up since her debut, the now womanly tone of her vocals and more forceful songs putting to rest her slightly cloying previous persona of ‘pretty but wounded Hackney ingenue’.
A singer-songwriter’s pop album through and through, strong melodies and fluid songwriting take precedence over the usual disjointed melee of devices and decontextualised hooks that come about when producers write albums.
It’s not without its faults. Co-written by Dan Wilson (he of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’) and One-Direction producer Jesse Shatkin respectively, ballads ‘Devil Side’ and ‘On My Way’ employ the same dreary Syco-pop format Foxes and her brethren aspire to transcend (Cowell may through a few disco-beats at One Direction but watery and sexless love odes their songs remain.) ‘Amazing’, meanwhile, is a little cheesy, and perhaps one motivational speech too many.
Minor quibbles aside, however, ‘All I Need’ is Britain’s pop industry going head-to-head with America’s heaviest hitters, and triumphing.