There’s no doubting the populist knack of 21-year-old south London MC Tempah. On tracks like 2005’s ‘Football Factory’, his shtick was very much slavish imitation of ‘Boy in da Corner’-era Dizzee Rascal: the same rapid-fire flows, overly pronounced, almost puckered vowels and wheedling, snipey tone of voice. But nowadays he’s embraced grime-pop, has major-label backing and is, one suspects, partly responsible for a growing grime backlash, embodied in 17-year-old east London MC Maxsta’s ‘Back to Grime’: ‘Them man are getting Number Ones and that, but I ain’t a traitor.’
Rhymes that attempt to balance braggadocio and family friendliness often border on comedy (‘I come up out the f****** dirt like a vegetable’), and the success of this album hinges on the window dressing of a slew of guest vocalists (Ellie Goulding on ‘Wonderman’, Kelly Rowland on ‘Invincible’) and slick, chart-friendly production cash-ins on the popularity of Auto-Tuned synth-pop and rave-lite. He gets away with the Dre-ish piano stabs and RATATAT-ish production of ‘Invincible’, but some tracks veer towards irksome. See the smoove R&B ivory-tinkling and electronic brass as Tempah and Rowland warble about their (pretend) love. Or ‘Written in the Stars’, where things tip over into Eurotrance and where the chorus is only a few pyrotechnics and bits of detachable ladywear away from justifying a Graham Norton commentary. It has all the right ingredients –and occasionally achieves genuine catchiness –but it’s too patchy to truly impress.