In November last year, Oxford-based a cappella group Out of the Blue released their landmark tenth studio album, and with such experience comes great knowledge, wisdom and musical ability. The result is this slick and suave album which sets the barrier extremely high for the rest of their British competition.
Musically, this album is flawless. The boys are note and pitch perfect every step of the way, something which makes this album absurdly easy to listen to. There are several sensational arrangements as well, and I must commend especially their ability to blend two (or more) songs together into mash-ups. These boys aren’t just academic geniuses – they’re also mash-up geniuses. Jason DeRulo’s In My Head is rather ordinary until the introduction of Down by Jay Sean, and my favourite track, made famous by the group’s exploits on Britain’s Got Talent, is a superb mix of the Pointer Sisters’ Jump and Irene Cara’s What A Feeling, which is bouncy, energetic and even has a key change – pretty much my ideal song.
However, the more I listened to the album, the more I realised there was something missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I heard Fields of Gold. While the boys arrange the slower songs with precision and intimacy, there’s one thing missing from actually a lot of the solos on the album, both in the slower songs and the more upbeat ones – a sense of emotion and individuality. While credit must go to all the soloists for being note perfect in every single lead, a lot of the time I couldn’t tell the difference between one soloist and another. While this does create a sense of the group blending to form one entity, I feel the album would be more interesting if all the soloists didn’t have such pure voices and such similar tones. As for the emotion, I definitely feel songs such as Forget You, It’s My Life and especially Fields of Gold needed more emotion to them, and needed to be sung passionately, rather than just sung.
That said, there were a couple of solo performances that really stood out, namely those on Uptown Girl, which was very Warbler-esque, and Beautiful Day and Katy Perry’s Firework, which I was dubious about at first but turned out to be (another) thoroughly good mash-up. The soloists on these tracks just seemed to let themselves interpret the lyrics a little bit more, and it led to these songs being a lot easier and more pleasurable to listen to.
I am being over critical though. Overall, this album contains twelve thoroughly impressive songs, arranged with care and sung just a little bit too perfectly. The boys once again show us why they are regarded as the leading all-male a cappella group in the country, and if they continue to produce music like this, then they will carry on in that vein for a very long time.