In the past few years JLS have cemented themselves as one of the biggest groups in Britain, and possibly our most successful urban act. With their fourth album, Evolution, they are harking back to the R&B pop of the late 90s/early 00s. This album is much more traditional R&B than its two dance infused predecessors, Outta This World and Jukebox, and gives the boys a much more Americanised sound that will surely only add to their international appeal.
‘Dessert’ is a strong opener, with plenty of comparisons to women and tasty after-dinner courses (as you do). It’s really catchy, and sets the ball rolling for the Justin Timberlake tribute that becomes a theme throughout the first few tracks. JT was more or less trending on Twitter when JLS performed ‘Hottest Girl In The World’ on The X Factor. The track resembles everything from ‘Like I Love You’ and ‘Señorita’, to the *NSYNC hit, ‘Girlfriend’. Sung completely in falsetto, it’s got the fast pace that makes it a great dance number, and therefore a JLS hit track. It is probably the strongest single on the whole album.
The ‘where have I heard that before’ effect doesn’t end there. The piano riff on ‘Hold Me Down’ bears an uncanny resemblance to Emeli Sandé’s ‘Next To Me’, to an extent where you won’t be able to hear the song without thinking about it. This probably rules out, what is otherwise quite a good song, as a possible future single. ‘All The Way’ and ‘Give Me Life’ are both real club hits. Thanks to the writers and producers the boys have used on Evolution, they’ve managed to put themselves on a par with their U.S. counterparts, like Usher and Ne-Yo. ‘Don’t Know That’ and ‘Gotta Try It’ are the laid back, ballad type tracks, akin to ‘Everybody In Love’. ‘Don’t Know That’ will probably be a single, and has one of the catchiest hooks on the record. Towards the end of the album, quite a few songs start to bleed into each other and sound a bit familiar, but overall it has its memorable moments.
JLS subscribe to the Rihanna formula – with a new album every year for the past four. The good thing about this is that you’re never out of the public eye and it helps to keep the fire burning constantly, but the negative side is that it’s impossible to create a really great album every time, and usually difficult to develop new themes and sounds for each release. When they sing ‘You got goods like a corner store’, it’s just the kind of cringe-inducing analogy that’s been made on countless songs before. JLS have put a slightly different edge on their brand of R&B with Evolution, but it doesn’t stand out from their previous albums because of their regularity. Whilst albums are fundamentals for recording artists, JLS are much more a group who have hit singles and give stand-out live performances, than a band who make great albums. That said, fans will love this, and it’s very listenable for anyone else too.
This review originally appeared in SoSoGay magazine.