It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's disappointing about All I Need, the sophomore release from English singer and songwriter Foxes (due out February 5th). It's definitely not her voice, whose slight but distinctive rasp shines through every track as a unifying factor between sounds. It would be unfair to criticise the songs, which are all cohesively produced, well polished and perfectly commercial - word on the street is that 'Wicked Love' will be the next single released from the project, but if we're honest pretty much any song from the album could be released to moderate success, from the EDM-tinged 'Shoot Me Down' to the 21st century power ballad 'Scar'. And to blame it on the singer herself seems cruel, given that her utterly gorgeous face seems only to be matched by the sweetness of her personality. What's really missing in this album is - and we hate to use what tends to be a somewhat undefinable word - edge. As a songwriter, Foxes tends to rely on a rather formulaic structure of detail-oriented verse, repetitive and catchy chorus (often with a couple of singable "ooh's" in there for good measure) and breakdown which throws back to the first verse. And the production, as perfectly executed as it is, tends only to flit backwards and forwards between EDM-inspired Europop and inspiring orchestral pieces (with a little bit of R&B thrown in there for good measure). The effect is a lingering sense that despite all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together perfectly, the finished image is somewhat of a let down, forsaking anything interesting or gripping for safety. That said, it would be incorrect to call the album a bad one, and it's easy listening vibes would be perfect as background music for a trip to the beach. Check out our track by track review of the album below to learn more!
Rise Up (Intro)
Judging from some Tweets she made while recording the album, Foxes was pretty jazzed about using a live orchestra for instrumentation on some tracks, a choice that clearly paid off on choice cut 'If You Leave Me Now'. But on 'Rise Up', the album's opener, the orchestra overwhelms the singer entirely for a fifty second long instrumental introduction, followed by some baby talk from what we'll presume is a young Foxes. Even though there's a nice build up here and the melody itself is quite pretty, the track seems redundant given the lack of transition into 'Better Love', which we'll be considering the real album opener. It probably would have made more sense to just incorporate this performance into an extended version of it's reprise.
With a co-writing credit and some backing vocals from Bastille's Dan Smith, the album's second single 'Better Love' was widely anticipated before it's release last September, and the track didn't fail to impress. Foxes is in her element here, rewriting the majority of her first album Glorious with one of her famously repetitive inspirational choruses, backed by some dancable drums and pushed forward by her ever-impressive vocals.
The album's first single promised a new direction for Foxes. With a supremely laidback 80s synth-pop vibe and an unexpectedly grungy image, Foxes seemed to be moving away from the uber-pop wholesomeness that permeated her debut - and even if that's a promise that isn't kept on the rest of the album, the track itself is still a jam and a nice step away from the usual on an otherwise somewhat formulaic album.
'Cruel' is situated right next to 'Body Talk' on the album, and for good reason - they're both outliers. With an electronically fused vocal sample and a Caribbean-inspired beat that wouldn't sound strange on a Gwen Stefani track, the track leaves behind the epicness of other songs like 'Amazing' for a chilled out refrain of "Baby you're so cool, you're so cruel/Cos you got me bound to you/This love I can't undo". 'Cruel' actually makes for a pretty nice listen, even if it's placement on the album seems somewhat random - it has that kind of mid-tempo, underproduced vibe that seems to dictate it should be pushed to the end of the album alongside 'Brown Eyes', 'Why Should I Be Sad' or 'California King Bed'.
If You Leave Me Now
One of the more raw, acoustic songs on the album, 'If You Leave Me Now' was always kind of a weird choice for a promo single given the big pop songs that Foxes is known for. Backed by a live orchestra, the song avoids total power ballad territory by implementing some vaguely Indian sounding chants, but that doesn't make it a whole lot more interesting. It's admittedly catchy, but the track still sounds like an unfinished reject from The Notebook, and the absolutely nonsensical lyrics in the chorus ("Oh no/Please don't go/If you leave me now/But you stay") still sound like a drunk girl's failed attempts at texting her ex on a Saturday night.
'Amazing' is classic Foxes, fusing the key ingredients of a fun piano riff, some thumping tribal drums and a stupidly catchy post-chorus of "Do what you wanna" to make one of the most easily danceable and fun tracks of the last year. If Foxes isn't offering anything new on 'Amazing', it can be forgiven due to the sheer joy that comes from experiencing the song and its accompanying video for the first time.
"It's almost like slow motion suicide/Watching your devil side come between you and me" sings Foxes - a charming line, if having a "devil side" was actually a thing. If this track had been sped up a little and produced with more of a rock edge, it could have made a great mimicry of Kelly Clarkson, but as it is the song labours under the weight of it's overly slow grand piano and somewhat rather annoying premise.
Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
'Feet Don't Fail Me Now' is one of the slightly more soul and R&B based songs on the album, which immediately makes it a standout compared to the formulaity of the dance-pop tracks. Foxes makes Duffy proud with a 'Rain On Your Parade'-esque throwback, which was produced by One Direction collaborator Jesse Shatkin. We would have been happy with the stomping rhythm of the build-up even if it never took off anywhere, but the song's explosion into even higher levels of passion towards it's end seals the deal for this one.
'Wicked Love' is touted as the fourth single from the album - a somewhat surprising choice given the presence of more radio-friendly songs like 'Shoot Me Down', but it will undoubtedly still achieve some success. The track shows hints of some Childish Gambino-inspired drum and bass beats during the chorus, which we wish had been played up a little more, because as it is the refrain is a pretty dull repetition of the phrase "wicked love" four times over. Seriously, she sings that phrase thirty six times in the song, and each time it becomes more and more grating. There's a surprise harp riff which comes in towards the end of the song to keep things interesting, but again it's not really highlighted enough to make the track particularly interesting.
"We were banging on the doors of heaven but we didn't have a chance in hell" begins 'Scar', one of the slower tempo tracks on the album. We're not sure if this track was written exclusively for a pitch, but if not then someone needs to call Shonda Rhimes immediately, because with it's Emeli Sandé inspired combo of heartfelt lyrics and rousing strings, this track is perfect for a closing song in Grey's Anatomy. Foxes vocals are on full display here, but despite their impressiveness they don't quite live up to the levels of Mariah Carey ad-libs we need from this song, which climaxes a little too briefly in it's last chorus. Despite this, we can definitely see commercial success along the lines of 'Say Something' down the road for this song.
We were quite excited for 'Money', which promised a disregard of Foxes default songwriting settings of 'irritated ex' and 'inspired party animal' for something a little more interesting. It turns out the song doesn't quite live up to this promise, still relying on the jilted lover trope established by the rest of the album, but at least the metaphor here is somewhat fresher. "She's got you good, got you spending your time/Dancing round all the signs" croons Foxes in the second verse, before launching into a full on attack with "Money can't love you/Money can't hold you/Money can't love you back" for the chorus. The somewhat questionable choice of a children's choir distracts a little from the bridge, but it still makes for one of the more interesting tracks on the album.
On My Way
The only true ballad on the album, 'On My Way' is one of those sweetly inoffensive tracks which are perfect for closing out an album - which it succeeds at doing for the standard edition. The piano-driven track shows signs of breaking out into one of her classic Europop tracks, but some vocal and musical restraint keeps the tension built up for the majority of the piece. Sadly, the song is let down by the chorus, which is again the weakest part of Foxes' songwriting, consisting this time of just the words "Baby I was on my way/I was on my way/I was on my way" repeated again and again.
Shoot Me Down
"The silence is so deafening/Feel my body dancing within/When it's violent my heart wants to sing". One of the most EDM tinged tracks on the album, 'Shoot Me Down' is backed by a pulsing line of synths and a heavy beat that wouldn't sound totally out of place on a David Guetta album. It's trancey production could have been accentuated a little more for maximum effect, and Foxes' vocals could have been roughened up a little to keep the darkness level turned up, but this is still one of the more interesting tracks on the album, not least because she seems to be shaking up the good girl image she's cultivated.
Lose My Cool
Reading like a homebrand version of 'Amazing', 'Lose My Cool' nevertheless has a few good points to it. The falsetto note Foxes hits every time she sings "lose my cool" is pretty fun, and you already know that any title ending in an 'o' sound will have endless opportunities for a fun post-chorus. "I'm caught on this dangerous ride/What are we gonna do?/Am I alone this time?" Foxes muses during the second verse. Ultimately though, this is another track on the album that's pretty unremarkable.
All I Need
The choruses have gotten progressively worse throughout the album, to the extent that title track 'All I Need' just repeats the line "You're all I need" six times over. With the addition of ad-libs and the outro, that brings the total count by the end of the track to thirty repetitions. Sigh. Other than that, this track is somewhat decent, drawing on the same drum and bass inspirations as 'Wicked Love', and featuring a pretty line of strings behind the beat. If it didn't share it's name with the album title, however, we would have recommended cutting this track.
Rise Up (Reprise)
Remember 'Rise Up', that instrumental track that opened the entire album? That melody makes a return to round the album out - but this time, the song implements some classic Foxes piano riffs and vocals from the songstress herself. With an inspirational refrain of "rise up right now, rise up right now, rise up", the song is basically the orchestral equivalent of 'Amazing'. The only shame about this track is it's length - clocking in at just a little over two and a half minutes, the song forsakes a second verse for a shorter running time, which is a real shame given how strong the build up is. An orchestral, or even Europoppy, second verse could have made this one of the greatest songs on the album.
Don't forget to check back here on February 5th for the full album! Let us know your thoughts of the already released songs below.