Capitol Records / UMG Recordings Inc.
Release Date: June 17th 2022
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Calum Scott – Bridges (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- If You Ever Change Your Mind
- Run With Me
- The Way You Loved Me
- Last Tears
- Half a Man
- Goodbye, Again
- I’ll Be There
- Cross Your Mind
- Boys in the Street
Calum Scott has been in and around the music industry for quite some time- he’s known the game quite a bit, but to be perfectly honest, I dunno if the world really knows who Calum actually is, they probably know him as ‘the guy who sung ‘You are the Reason’ with Leona Lewis’, not really knowing him by name. Nevertheless, Calum’s reputation has since soared after his debut album Only Human, specifically his cover of Robyn’s ‘Dancing on My Own’, and alongside his chart-topping ‘You are the Reason’, delivered what society and culture at large thought, was one of the decade’s most underrated debut albums. Since his 2018 debut, Calum’s been a little quiet…until now of course. Released four whole years after his career-defining debut album; Calum’s sophomore release Bridges (which dropped in June this year) is arguably one of the most unique and out-of-left-field releases of 2022 thus far…in the best ways possible. With standout tracks like ‘Rise’, ‘Flaws’, ‘Biblical’, ‘Heaven’ and the title track, Calum reminds us of the transientness of life, and how through COVID-19, we all should be a bit more aware of our own mortality; and come to terms with the fact that we won’t necessarily be here on this earth for long. A lot of this album is reconciling that profound thought, and to encourage people to reach out and speak to somebody if they’re feeling hopeless or even overwhelmed by it all. A must-have album, especially if you’re a fan of Calum’s first album, or of similar artists like James Arthur, Leona Lewis or even the great and mighty Ed Sheeran; Calum’s second album is one of savour and enjoy, and be reminded ourselves, that in such a polarising society that we live in, it’s much better to build bridges with people and to find common ground, rather than to be divided and in doing so, tear people apart.
Standing at 14 tracks and at a bit under 50 minutes in total length, Calum invests in 14 ballad-y tracks, where each of these songs have the ability to tug at our heartstrings and become standout tracks in each of our lives on a personal level. And while I do admire Calum for his power, enthusiasm and heart, the fact that virtually all of his songs on this album sound eerily similar tempo-wise, may unfortunately do him a disservice, considering that the slowness to each of these songs, may make the album as a whole sound too similar to each other, not creating a certain distinctness between tracks, but allowing the album to ride by…and that’s it. Sure, there are the standout songs for me personally, like ‘Biblical’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Rise’, ‘I’ll Be There’ and the title track, but to the casual listener, I dunno if a whole album sounding the same will be good in the long run. Nevertheless, Calum’s passion still cannot be denied, as this album delivers nevertheless- vocally and technically. If we’re ok with an album full of ballad songs, then this album is fine for you. If you’re well aware, that reflective ballads are Calum’s certain style, then that’s ok too. But creating an album where the songs musically aren’t distinct enough from each other, may bring listeners to a hard decision- to only listen to this album once (out of curiosity sake), but never listen to those songs again, because of them being stylistically similar to each other. Regardless of whichever way you slice it, Bridges may unfortunately not work out in Calum’s favour, but maybe that’s ok. Taking his time between his 2018 debut album, and now this album from 2022; Calum’s songs are honest, real, raw, and genuine. Even if you’re still not a fan of reflective music by the end of listening to it, surely a decision can be agreed upon, that Calum’s raw talent overall is what drives this album as a whole. He is indeed one of the U.K.’s most promising and welcomed new artists in quite some time, and a must-listen, if you’ve been a fan of his previous work, or if you’re a fan of other similar artists- Leona Lewis, James Arthur, and Ed Sheeran; to name a few.
Coming in at track #1, ‘Biblical’ is the first song from the album; and is also one of the pre-release songs Calum unveiled prior to the whole album release of Bridges. Standing at a tad below 4 minutes, Calum invites us into this soulful and emotional piano ballad, with stirring string instruments, and a big gospel choir. Calum describes a love between two people as something of biblical proportions, reminding us listeners, who do know something of and about the bible, that a love that is expressed by Christ for His church, can also be a love that is representative between two people who mirror exactly what the Lord wants, between Himself and humanity. Or as Calum himself puts it, ‘…while I know the word ‘biblical’ has spiritual connotations to many, Biblical to me is about unquantifiable love, a love beyond description or measure, a love of biblical proportions that transcends everyone and everything. If I can aspire for one thing for this song, it’s that the listener hears it and fits a name, a face, or a passion to the lyric and makes it their story… ‘Biblical’ gave me contentment during a really awful time: it was a song that I had almost given up searching for, one that truly spoke to me. Finding a song, you feel so connected to, is the closest to magic you can get. Lockdown had presented all of us a moment to realize how much people mean to us and how sometimes we take that for granted. Singing that sentiment enabled me to release and reflect those emotions, immortalizing them. The song means so much to me that I wanted to make it the first thing people hear when coming back with new music. Having seen how my music had reacted with people over the last three years, it gave me an opportunity to absorb what I had experienced, to mature and become an artist with a mission. I want to create something for people to feel seen, heard, and represented…’
Throughout the rest of the album, Calum continues of offer up heartfelt and compelling moments of understanding and encouragement, as this album starts to become one of the most uplifting and inspirational mainstream albums this year has produced thus far. ‘If You Ever Change Your Mind’ speaks about heartbreak in a way where the persona feels it all fresh in their mind, alluding to the fact that sometimes, heartbreaks can become all-consuming. ‘If You Ever Change Your Mind’ also brings forth the understanding, that in the wake of such breakups (because of time, distance, and varying priorities), one cannot really be sure of the initial future, especially in the direct moments after a breakup- if the other person suddenly changes their mind and wants to resume the relationship…what then? Would it be toxic to travel back into the relationship, or should people just give it one more go, in the hope that it could last? ‘Run With Me’ has a Coldplay-esque feel as Calum invites listeners to ‘run with him’, going to the places of emotion and encouragement with him, and understanding that through empathising with his experiences, we have the permission to be vulnerable with our own, that as we know that our famous role models can be open and honest about their own experiences, we can stand tall, brave and bold with our own stories, hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe, God can use what we’ve experienced to impact, bless, challenge, and maybe even motivate, someone else in our own familial/friend circle. As Calum himself divulges, ‘…with “Run With Me,” when we were making the album, I was thinking about the journey I wanted to take people on. I wanted to have this moment with the songs where it was almost something that you could fill a stadium with…something that’s epic and huge. I’m a big fan of Coldplay and Snow Patrol—those bands have these epic, huge moments. So, we started writing “Run With Me” up in Wales with my producer Jon Maguire, and it’s a simple chorus, but it elevates and lifts and the song goes on this journey. It has the mentality of “I’ll go wherever you go” or “We’re in this together.” With the chorus of “Run with me, Jump with Me,” and as the song flows into the final chorus, it has this epic journey that I absolutely love…’
‘The Way You Loved Me’ again speaks about heartbreak, and the process that Calum himself is going through, reconciling the fact that before, he used to be in a relationship, and now, he’s not. Relationship breakdowns can often be a sudden thing- one day you’re together and thinking that it’s going to last forever, and the next, you’re being ghosted for…whatever reason that you think you did to upset them, or is it just them? Whatever the case, relationship often end with a switch of a button, and that can cause confusion and uncertainty, or as Calum himself depicts in the lyrics, ‘…I love the way you loved me, I hate the way you don’t, it feels so weird to me that you don’t feel it anymore and I’d like for you to change your mind, but we both know you won’t, I love the way you loved me, I hate the way you don’t…’ ‘Flaws’ comes in at track #5, and really hones into the theme of flaws, and how us having them, shouldn’t be defining in our search for love, acceptance and friendship- and if it is in a certain relationship…then that particular relationship needs to be reevaluated. If something is based around our flaws, and not in spite of them, then whatever we’re in, is pretty toxic. And while we’re in it, we may not see how we can be gaslighted because of our accentuated flaws and how they are highlighted without us even knowing, sometimes the bravest thing to do, is to take a step back, and to be ok with some our our flaws being just that- flaws. For we try so hard to create a curated and ‘perfected’ version of ourselves on social media (and in real life too), while more often than not, the way that we can truly and authentically live (without measuring up, because we rarely do), is to understand and embrace, that God can in fact, use the most flawed and messy people, for our good and His glory. As Calum expounds upon this song, we also see, that ‘…“Flaws” is a song that I wrote in Nashville. Most of my sessions are kind of therapeutic; it allows me to express how I feel about anything I’ve been through. For this session, I was talking to the guys (Jon Maguire & Jordan Schnidt) about my sister being really down on herself, and especially about the way she looked. She was feeling self-conscious and down. I said to Jon, “These flaws make people who they are, and I love everything about my sister, whether she has flaws or not. I’ve got flaws, everybody has flaws. But that’s what makes us who we are.” Then we started writing along the lines of that, sort of paying homage to the song “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, and trying to instill some confidence into people. And this song speaks further than me or my sister, and how we feel. It’s more to do with the generation of people coming up with social media, and how sometimes it can make people feel. People look at Instagram and think that life’s perfect. That’s why we wanted to write a song that spoke to that, and show the importance of loving yourself, flaws and all…’
‘Heaven’ is a song that I’m sure will strike up conversation and discussion, around this notion of heaven and what it really is about, and whether there is a place the other side of eternity, where such a perfect place exists, and what it really consists of. Even if someone isn’t ‘religious’, I’m sure this song will make us think- how do we want this world to look like- for ourselves and others, and if, by what we say, do, think, act or behave; we’re either bringing ‘heaven’ down to earth, or making it like ‘hell’…then what we do (or what we don’t do) has a direct implication and precedent on people’s own experiences and what they may even think of God at the end of the day. While I don’t exactly know Calum’s own faith journey, I do know this- ‘Heaven’ compares a relationship (an earthly one between two people) to the feeling that comes from understanding whatever concept you can wrap your head around, of what heaven is like for you. As Calum himself relays, ‘…as songwriters, we’re always searching for new ways of saying ‘I miss you’ or ‘I love you’ or ‘I want you back. The concept of ‘Heaven’ is the love between two people being so powerful that it is far superior to anything else, any other form of paradise that could be offered. I loved the idea of putting the power into the relationship…’ ‘Rise’ follows along from ‘Heaven’, and speaks about coming from adversity, and moving through challenges to overcome obstacles that may have initially been assumed to be insurmountable; and is by far one of my favourite songs on the album. As Calum offers insight about the song, we see that ‘…“Rise” celebrates overcoming, defeating the odds, and prevailing despite the obstacles or the knock-backs you face along the way. I wrote “Rise” during lockdown at a time when I was really down on myself. All I can hope for this song is that wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, it brings you strength, it puts its arm around you and encourages you to not let anything hold you back and to chase your dreams…’ ‘Last Tears’ is a song about resolve and picking yourself up after heartbreak, heartache and breakup, as Calum sings from the perspective of the person who was left, and still feels lingering feelings for the person who abruptly moved on, so much so that ‘…even my mother, she still asks about you, ’bout when you’re comin’ home and I keep tellin’ her, you won’t…’, implying that the breakup is still fresh in Calum’s own mind. Calum also imparts a sense of wisdom through the song ‘Half A Man’, as we’re reminded that without a special someone, the persona is only ‘half a man’, that who the other person is, compliments the persona so well, that when they’re together, it feels as though two have become one- that two people working so much in synergy and a sense of union that happens, makes people believe that these two people cannot exist without each other…and most likely, they can’t.
‘Goodbye Again’ sees Calum asking the question of if the latest relationship he’s potentially in, is actually for real, or if everything could also be perceived as something much more fleeting; while ‘I’ll Be There’ harkens back thematically to Jess Glynne’s song of the same name, as Calum’s original song is a great track of encouragement and motivation, a quasi-‘worship’ song where we see Calum’s persona declaring that he’ll be there for his friends/family that seem to be going through a hard time. ‘Cross My Mind’ follows along from ‘I’ll Be There’, and is a bittersweet song about breakups, and wondering if the other person has moved on so quickly to their new relationship, or if you are on their mind, just as they are on yours. ‘Cross My Mind’ is a song full of vulnerability and compelling confrontation, as Calum offers the hauntingly emotive words, asking the question ‘…do I ever cross your mind? Do I ever keep you up at night? Thinking ’bout what could’ve been if we did it all again, I’ve been tryna keep an opеn door even though you got the locks on yours, tell mе even after all of this time, do I ever cross your mind like you cross mine? Do I? Oh, do I?…’ ‘Cross Your Mind’ tackles this theme of moving on in relationships, and sometimes, you can still feel as though moving on isn’t the right thing to do (because the other person is still lingering in your mind), while the other person has moved on, a little too quickly for your own liking. There is no ‘correct’ way to grieve a relationship lost, and someone’s moving on too ‘quickly’ can be seen as another’s moving on ‘at just the right time’.
But it’s the songs ‘Boys in the Street’ and the title track ‘Bridges’ that underpin the album as a whole, thematically, and emotionally, as Calum himself unveils some of his personal struggles through these last two songs on the album. Unveiled through a cover of a personal Greg Holden ballad, ‘Boys in the Street’ speaks about the inner turmoil of a father and a man when he discovers that his son is gay, and the reconciliation between the revelation of his son, and his own traditional values and beliefs that he has held his whole life. It’s a lifelong thing to reconcile if someone in your immediate family (or someone you know) identifies as someone from the LGBTQIA+ community. You may not necessarily agree with how someone identifies, or their life choices. But can you still love them and support them, in spite of that? ‘Boys in the Street’ is an emotional song that offers a sense of reconciliation that comes when the father asks the question to himself- can I still love my son unconditionally, regardless of my own beliefs on LGBTQIA+ as a whole? I dunno if there is an actual, literal answer, but hopefully, ‘Boys in the Street’ can start off the conversation that allows us to have discussions like this. Painful, emotive, heartfelt, and compelling discussions, but discussions nonetheless that people need to have. As Calum himself imparts to us all, ‘…I definitely wanted the album finish in a strong way. When I was doing the track listing, I wanted to find a way to leave people at the end of the album…just feeling moved. There’s a collection of songs at the end that have that power. “Boys in the Street’ was written by Greg Holden. He did an incredible job about telling a story about real pain, and longing to be accepted and be loved. It’s a tragic but beautiful story between a son and his dad, and the song takes place over a full lifetime, The dad doesn’t accept his (gay) son, and it takes him to his deathbed to finally accept that his son just wants to be loved regardless of what sexual orientation he has. It’s about being accepted and loved. When I sing that song, there’s not a dry eye in the house…’
Ending the album with title track ‘Bridges’, Calum continues to deliver hopeful and uplifting songs, and this track is no different. It’s a solemn, emotional, and compelling song that deeply and profoundly brings forth this theme and concept of suicide, and speaks about how oftentimes, the pain that people will certainly cause to those around them (who do go through the act of suicide), is far greater and much more profound and impacting, compared to the pain that people silently go through each day (those who don’t go through the act of suicide). In fact, I’d dare say that suicide is never the option (other’s would also agree), that if people sought after and seeked out help, then the pain people felt, would lessen, and lessen, to the point where suicide doesn’t seem like a viable option anymore. Hopeful and encouraging, ‘Bridges’ showcases a man at the end of his rope, feeling as though to end his own life, is the only way forward. And yet, the song reminds us, that turning to something else/someone else, greater than ourselves that we can live for (our friends and family, God, Christ Himself, love itself, the love for spouses and children), brings us back from the brink, and gives us something to hope towards and live for. As spoken by Calum himself, ‘…I wrote “Bridges” with Jon Maguire and Danny O’Donoghue from The Script. With Danny, when he started writing the music, I connected with him so easily. I told him the story of “Bridges” and he was so supportive. It was a darker time of my life (contemplating suicide). It was a time where I was really struggling with my self-confidence for many different reasons. And very literally, I was questioning if I could go on with my journey. It’s a very literal song about that, and I needed someone like Danny who could help me articulate that. And with songs like that, you wonder how much of yourself you should be putting in your music and how much you should keep to yourself. It was a real struggle after I’d written that song, as beautiful it was, and how therapeutic it was to get that out of your system, I wasn’t sure if it should go on the album because how personal it is. But just as the music on my first album resonated with people, I had no doubt that a song like this would really help somebody who’s feeling that way. And so that informed my decision. I decided that I have to be honest, I have to be strong, and I have to put it out there for people who will hopefully take something away from that…’
There you have it…Bridges. 14 tracks, by one of the U.K.’s most talented new artists, and one such artist that probably should’’ve been in my very own honourable mentions of Influential artists within the next 5+ years…or maybe he actually, really deserved an actual blog post himself, about artists who are impactful and influential now and into the future? Who ever knows, but what I do know now, is this- Bridges the album, is by far one of my favourite albums of the year by a mainstream artist, and one such album that caught me off-guard, in the best way possible. I didn’t know what to expect. I probably assumed that, because I knew of Calum’s sexuality, the album’s message would reflect that as well…which wasn’t really the case. A lot of themes on Bridges are very much universal, and I’m reminded through this album, that a good album is a good album is a good album, regardless of the sexual orientation of the person singing it. Sure, do I think that someone who has a Christian worldview and hold’s biblical ethics, is bound to release a music album that’ll hit harder for me and would impact me on a far greater scale than anyone else? Most definitely. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord cannot use anyone else. He’s certainly used Calum’s new album, and I’m sure, will continue to use him in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. Bridges is a cathartic album, one that can hopefully heal wounds and challenge listeners in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. From the title track to songs like ‘Rise’ and ‘Flaws’, this is a must-have album, especially if you enjoy similar-styled artists like Leona Lewis, James Arthur, or even the ever-reliable Ed Sheeran. Well done Calum for this thought-provoking and emotional album. Looking forward to seeing the impact of it on listeners in the upcoming year ahead.
3 songs to listen to: Bridges, Rise, Flaws
RIYL: Leona Lewis, James Arthur, Ella Henderson, Ed Sheeran