It’s probably a little too easy to hate on Conor Maynard. With the likes of Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran invading the charts with their own brand of squeaky-clean powderpuff pop, Brighton-boy Maynard is an easy target for close-minded critics that want a little more substance.
After the release of this debut album though, maybe it’s time to cut Conor some slack? Love him or loathe him, the singer has risen from his seaside bedroom to stateside stardom in little over a year and can count his celebrity fans by the bucketload – he’s even reeled in hip-hop god Pharrell Williams and man-of-the-moment Frank Ocean to lend a helping hand with ‘Contrast’.
As expected, Conor’s played things relatively safe with his debut album. He’s stuck rigidly to contemporary sounds of success for this record, squeezing as much joy as he can from a collection of electronic R&B tracks that will feel at home on the airwaves, in the nightclubs and on your little sister’s iPod.
While the comparisons to Justin Bieber are a little bit too lazy to be taken seriously (Conor’s sound isn’t quite as vomit-inducing), similarities to the solo debut of another Justin are a little more obvious. Much like Timberlake did ten years ago, Conor almost makes pop cool again. ‘Lift Off’ is everything you’d expect from a track featuring Pharrell, while Maynard plays the role of teenage-lothario relatively well in bassy, catchy tracks like ‘Pictures’.
Not everything is perfect – this is a 17 year old teenager preaching about love after-all, so you may not find the lyrical depth you’d require to win an Ivor Novello. Elsewhere, one or two of the tracks sound too familiar and could easily get lost in the mix, while Conor is probably overshadowed by featured artists that also include Ne-Yo and Rita Ora.
All that being said, taking this album for what it is – R&B pop from a major label artist – this isn’t a bad first effort from the local lad. Solid work, Connor. You’re beating Bieber anyway.