Pop artists evolve themselves constantly and often try new things in terms of sound or image. Sometimes these developments are quite a departure from anything we knew about that artist before. These more radical artistic reinventions do sometimes alienate the already existing fanbase. Take Lady Gaga’s Joanne area for example. The star known for her electronic pop, went into a more organic, country direction which led to some strong criticism from her fans, but at the same time gained her a new audience. The same seems to be the case with British singer-songwriter James Bay at the moment. He took the world by storm with his stripped back ballads, but not all of his fans seem to warm to new tracks like ‘Wild Love’ and ‘Pink Lemonade’ too much just yet. Needless to say I am fully on board for this era!
James Bay launched his debut album Chaos and the Calm back in 2015 with huge hit singles ‘Hold Back The River’ and ‘Let It Go’. He promoted the record until late 2016 and then disappeared for a while to figure out what he wanted to do on upcoming sophomore album Electric Light. His new sound of course had to go together with a new image. For Gaga the change of her look was focused on simpler outfits and a signature pink hat; for James Bay it meant losing his hat and his long hair for a more slick look with glittery shirts. His comeback single ‘Wild Love’ came out earlier this year and marked quite the departure. Instead of his acoustic pop songs, he came back with an intriguing synths driven production and some ear catching distorted vocal effects. For anyone wondering, the beautiful melodies and lyrics were still there though!
As if that wasn’t enough confusion to deal with for some of his fans from the early days, he dropped the 80s inspired, ballsy track ‘Pink Lemonade’. The production is electric guitar heavy with a bright and shiny pop chorus. The whole thing even has a bit of a glam vibe going on. Lyrically, James Bay gets to play the heartbreaker who already warned his fling not to fall in love with him. That layer of hooks that serves about three choruses after one another is pure songwriting genius. Although there are quite a few fans who miss the ‘old James Bay’ and even accuse him of selling out (so far the new singles haven’t made a commercial impact even close to his earlier work, so if that were the case, he should rethink his strategies), but there are just as many who support his new direction and are excited for what is to come. I appreciated his work before, but ‘Pink Lemonade’ is what made me become a full realized and unapologetic James Bay stan. With reinventions, you win some, you lose some, but as long as Bay is making the music he wants to make and it sounds as damn good as this, he should not have to worry.