Matt Cardle can't start a fire without a spark
Album Review: Matt Cardle The Fire (So What? Recordings)
Such has been the globe-spanning popularity of the Anglo-Irish boyband One Direction that it's easy to forget that they didn't actually win The X Factor two years ago.
That "honour" goes to the Southampton balladeer Matt Cardle, a man who made a name for himself on the show by, ahem, keeping it real, and sporting a bewildering array of ill-advised headwear.
Cardle signed on Simon Cowell's dotted line and his flaccid debut album was only modesty successful (considering the weeks of prime-time TV exposure he had enjoyed). His three singles just about limped into the UK top 40.
Now, the bold Matt has discarded Cowell and the flat caps and has pitched up on an indie label. He reckons this album best represents what he's about. Hmm. Credibility, alas, isn't bought that easily.
The Fire is a wholly unremarkable album. Despite the presence of big name songwriters-for-hire like Eg White and James Walsh -- remember Starsailor? -- the songs fail to pack a punch.
They are well enough crafted and Cardle is by no means a bad singer, but they simply don't resonate in any meaningful way.
Worse, the whiff of X Factor is never far away, especially on the far-from-glorious cover of Roberta Flack's classic First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Once the song has played out, one almost expects to hear some stock platitude from Louis Walsh.
Intriguingly, the press release claims that Empire -- one of the better songs -- was inspired by "a wild night" Cardle enjoyed with Robbie Keane in Los Angeles.
There's no direct reference to the Ireland striker in the catchy song, but it's probably best if a certain Giovanni Trapattoni doesn't hear that his loyal lieutenant has been burning the midnight oil with reality-show cast-offs in faraway California.
KEY TRACK Empire
Day & Night