JLS – Evolution (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SAYING that the aptly named Evolution is the best work that JLS have put out so far is hardly glowing praise given the forgettable nature of their material so far.
But this new album does mark an evolution of sound that should broaden their appeal even if it still leaves a lot to be desired.
Tired of trailing in the wake of fellow boy bands such as The Wanted and One Direction, and determined to shake the drippy ballad tag away from them, these nice guys of pop look to dirty up their image and almost pull it off.
Lead single and clear album highlight Hottest Girl In The World was a clear statement of intent given its switch from sappy to sexy and its heavy nod towards classic Justin Timberlake.
The remainder of the album adheres to the same ideology of bringing in big name producers (from Bangladesh and Rodney Jerkins to The Runners and Midi Mafia) and manages to conjure some interesting instrumental arrangements, that straddle the worlds of dance, hip-hop, urban and R’n’B.
But the lyrics still leave a lot to be desire, given their desire to either get edgy (unsuccessfully) or lovey-dovey (or appallingly sentimental). And the boys’ voices and vocal arrangements still could do with some growing up if they’re to break out from the boy band association (which working with such producers should have done).
Of the moments that kind of work, Hottest Girl In The World is the hands-down best moment by virtue of its difficult to ignore energy.
But Give Me Life benefits from a grittier urban sound to the synths and a halfway decent chorus that recalls classic Timbaland in production values. As does I Like It (albeit blemished with a dodgy chorus) and Troublemaker (another nod towards Timberlake).
Alas, they can’t resist fouling things up with a couple of really, really dud tracks. Don’t Know That is the type of smooth groove R’n’B ballad that they should really steer well clear from because it’s appalling.
While Hold Me Down is a blatant attempt to piggy-back on the sound of both Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy without the appeal of either. Lyrically, too, it shows their cheesy shortcomings with lines like “it’s said a man aint meant to fly, but I’m reaching up to the sky”.
Attempts to come over all seductive, meanwhile, are laughably bad, as on album opener Dessert, which finds the boys announcing “girl, you’re looking like a menu, everything looks good on you” (presumably they’re not eating at McDonalds) and then declaring: “Let me lick you up and down.”
All told, Evolution lives up to its title by marking a progression of sound that’s a move in the right direction. But it’s still some way short of being anywhere near good enough to recommend.
Download picks: Hottest Girl In The World, Give Me Life, Troublemaker