Rag'n'Bone Man - Human
by Lowri Ellcock
I’ll admit, I went into my first listen of this album expecting to dislike it. Having heard Human non-stop on the radio and various Spotify adverts over the last few months since its initial release in July 2016, I was sick of the faux-soul sounding music and the slightly grating repetition of “I’m only human” by Rag’n’Bone Man (real name, Rory Graham). However, I think this dislike simply came from a case of too much of a good thing, and unfortunately this seems to be the case with the album. Graham’s voice is undeniably delightful, it’s rich and soulful and a treat for the old ear drums. The sound follows in the trend of Sam Smith and Adele, who is, arguably, Rag’n’Bone Man’s (superior) female equivalent. But standing at a massive 19 tracks, the album grows a bit repetitive.
After kicking around the edges of the music scene for the last five years, Graham seems to have come into his own recently, finding success as the recipient of the BRITs 2017 Critics’ Choice Award, a nomination for Best British Breakthrough Artist (also at the 2017 Brit Awards), as well as coming in second place in the BBC Radio One Sound of 2017. He’s also enjoyed chart success across Europe, securing the number one position in more than 10 countries and, despite never quite making it to the coveted number one spot, a long stay in the UK charts.
Commencing with the title track, and Rag’n’Bone Man’s greatest commercial success, the album opens confidently and then unfortunately falls more in the ‘middle of the road’ category as it all becomes a little bit on the same-y side but it does, however, make for an alright listen. Die Easy is a nice a capella break towards the middle of the album after the relatively bland Bitter End and Be the Man. Lyrically many of the songs, such as Your Way or the Rope just seem to be the same line over and over again and I found myself singing along to almost all the songs after one listen. Whilst perhaps not the most original and clever lyrics, emotive track Love You Any Less features some stunning musical layering, which coupled with Graham’s voice make a powerful song, if not one that would lend itself well to a very dramatic X-factor-contestant-style performance. Rather bizarrely, Lay My Body Down seems to feature a musical allusion to Usher’s Confessions with the repetition of the lyric “These are my confessions”, which may be a bit jarring to any noughties R&B fans. This may have been accidental but is noticeable nonetheless. As the album draws to a close, Wolves is a welcome change and a stand out track.
Overall, the album’s biggest downfall is the sheer scale of it. At 19 songs long and over an hour of listening it does start to get a little boring, and by track 15 (Life in Her Yet) I was longing for something a little different to shake things up as every song sounded the same and I had become entirely indifferent to the album. Maybe it’s just not my thing, maybe I’m not appreciating Graham’s soulful crooning properly, but to me this album is disappointingly bland and could have done with being about 5 tracks shorter, with some changes in tempo and style to break up the monotony. The gravitas of Graham’s voice is the standout point of the album, but unfortunately it simply isn’t exciting enough to carry all 19 tracks.