Mercury Prize shortlist nominees (number: 2011)
en: Disc-Overy [info]
Disc-Overy certainly isn't short on variation or big-name guests, but the drive for kudos ends up pushing Tinie Tempah into the sidelines. It's a super-confident debut breadth-wise, but a misfire in terms of depth - it stretches too far and ends up light on substance and personality.
The problem stems from the album's assortment of current-day references, and the desire to tick so many genre-boxes, be it ska, RnB, grime, big pop ballads, reggae or cliched heavy rock. It's an unnecessary overcompensation too, as there's a charming core left standing tall and proud, a super-confident character brimming with arrogance.
See, when Tinie Tempah's debut works, it really flies; he's perfectly capable of hitting the pop-crossover spots where so many others have fallen short. He retains an authentic, turbo-charged grime sound on Simply Unstoppable while spitting oh-so-quotable rhymes: "I'm about to clean up like a Dyson / I like to say it how it is like Simon / I like the taste of alcohol, I got wine gums". On one track, he provides a summary of just how Dizzee Rascal has infiltrated the mainstream - a riposte to Roll Deep's 2005 album In at the Deep End, whose tongue was lodged too firmly into its cheek.
Disc-Overy, however, suffers from too-samey delivery - Tempah's at his best when projecting his rhymes at a rapid rate, jabbing words awkwardly in conflict with the beats. On album opener Intro and Let Go, his flow lacks ambition and punch, but the ska-influenced Snap is the worst offender, starting and ending with no trace of identity. Tempah's verses on Wonderman, featuring Ellie Goulding, feel like mere lead-ups to the chorus - which can't be right if he's billed as the song's star.
That's all forgotten on tracks as glossily produced as Miami 2 Ibiza, where repetitive dance beats overpower the anonymity elsewhere. And Just a Little sees the 21-year-old in the lovelorn ex guise, rhyming "Veuve Clicquot" with "ego" and suddenly becoming recognisable. He's particularly strong on hit single Pass Out, playing on his overactive narrative - there's even mirth, as Tempah famously rhymes "Concorde" with "Scunthorpe".
This album feels too consciously targeted at people who mightn't come to it, and instead of playing on Tempah's charisma, rather plays on personality-type. And while a debut of 13 Friskys would be exhausting, Disc-Overy just doesn't capitalise on the south Londoner's undeniable energy and charm.
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