It’s nearly twelve years since an unknown James Arthur stepped out on the X-Factor stage at the start of his incredible journey. An unemployed twenty-four-year-old living in a bedsit, the singer-songwriter left the stage to a standing ovation and the praise of all four judges ringing in his ears. Well, twelve years later that journey has brought him to this point and the release of his stunning fifth album, ‘Bitter Sweet Love’.
For four albums, Arthur has honed his soul-baring emotion down to a fine art as evident throughout the heart wrenching opener “A Year Ago”. Gritty, emotional, and powerful, every word that pours from the songwriter on tracks like the album opener or the stunning “Is It Alright” comes from a place of pure emotion. Gut-wrenching honesty seeps from this album so much so that when songs like “Is It Alright” build up into the kind of crescendo they do, they have every nerve crackling.
Not only content with baring his soul, when he mixes in some delicious pop beats, as he does on the title track or the up-tempo pop rock of the quite brilliant “My Favourite Pill”, far from sounding out of place, the confidence and attitude simply rounds off this album perfectly. It also means that Arthur has the option to pick from a set of tunes that will get any crowd up on their feet and dancing.
Taking ‘Bitter Sweet Love’ back to basics though and this is an album full of life experiences. Experiences which, judging by the power with which the singer-songwriter tells those tales, have left their mark on his heart and soul. He wears those scars proudly on his sleeve and, harking back to those judges’ comments in 2012, listening to James Arthur is listening to the sound of a man “lost in his world, just a microphone and a guitar”. Sure, the songs, the production, the sound may be more polished but, strip that all away and, as you will hear throughout ‘Bitter Sweet Love’, this is just raw emotion.