ALBUM REVIEW: Lewis Capaldi serves up hotly-anticipated ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’

Heartbreak hero and Scottish social media sensation Lewis Capaldi releases his hugely-anticipated debut record ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’. 

Gaining millions of online followers over a few months is hardly unheard of in pop culture. Lewis Capaldi, however, isn’t your usual Instagram-famous pin-up boy. The Scotsman’s rise is one of 2019’s unlikely stories.

Riding the wave of heart-wrenchingly honest single ‘Someone You Loved’ with an inexperienced boy-next-door social media presence, it’s a paradox that just shouldn’t have worked. Somehow, he’s succeeded in capturing a nation (or at least nearly 2 million Instagram followers) before he’s even had the chance to move out of his parents’ house – see his face plastered in the London Underground and even sporting a traffic cone on Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington statue.

With such a big audience and seven weeks at Number 1 with ‘Someone You Loved’, music lovers are throwing his name out amongst the ‘Ezras’ and the ‘Sheerans’ without a second thought. It is the obvious comparison, just like those two big Brit names, Capaldi’s image has remained organic. He’s dodged the over-grooming record labels often usher upcoming artists through, kept full control of his social media accounts and his songs, quite clearly, come from him.

It’s an absolute privilege to be heightened to the face of grassroot British pop in 2019. However, it’s a double-edged sword. With all the hype, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent had to live up to the standards set by the likes of Sheeran’s Divide and Ezra’s Staying At Tamara’s. Those albums have gone eleven times and twice platinum respectively and are nothing short of flawless.

And as reviews for Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent come in, it’s clear that isn’t the case. “Emotion is telegraphed through forced hoarseness”, The Guardian writes, whilst NME quip “didn’t Adele already do this?” and The Scotsman admitted their review of their compatriot is a “hatchet” one. Even as it provides great material for Capaldi’s piss-taking social posts, “realising that my album is out at midnight and it’s the culmination of my life’s work and I’ve read three one-star reviews” he shared on Instagram with a series of grimacing selfies (it’s almost as great a defence mechanism at Taylor Swift built with Reputation in 2017), it’s not the right way to look at Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent.

Joking aside, when Capaldi writes that it’s his “life’s work”, that’s true. Believe it or not, he’s an artist born before 2019 and ‘Someone You Loved’. He’s spent years on the road, cutting his teeth in the smallest of venues before selling out this year’s arena tour. Single ‘Grace’ was released in September last year, whilst ‘Bruises’ was his first single all the way back in 2017. Those two tracks open the record, ‘Grace’ with its anthemic plodding and ‘Bruises’ with its stripped storytelling prowess – two of the album’s best moments.

What’s clear is that Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is a debut effort. The 12-tracks don’t stray away from a rasping formula that Capaldi has built his career on. But, why should he? It’s what the day-one fans have bought into for years and it’s his artistry at its most fundamental. For Divide and Staying at Tamara’s, Sheeran and Ezra were writing with almost guaranteed success and a solidified career that makes experimenting all the easier. ‘Hold You While You Wait’ has been climbing the charts since its release a couple of weeks ago, and is another track which is just as well formed as smash ‘Someone You Loved’.

‘Forever’ is a piano-led accepting of a break-up as Capaldi acknowledges, “I never said that we would die together, That doesn’t mean it was a lie, remember”. Elsewhere ‘Hollywood’ is as light sounding as it gets as the 22-year-old reflects on the price of stardom, whilst if you’re looking for a reason why Capaldi is so loved, ‘Headspace’ is the track that will answer that. Out of all 12 efforts, perhaps ‘Someone You Loved’ and ‘Hold Me While You Wait’ aside, there may not be anything exceptional – but there’s still a whole lot of good.

Reading other reviews of Capaldi’s record, having lapped up every second of his rise, people are already wanting something different. Really, for a debut record, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is everything a first effort should be. Lewis Capaldi has delivered the goods.

Rating – 3/5

Written by Toby Bryant

Student journalist: music, sport, culture and just about anything in-between… Have worked for The Courier, NME, Daily Mirror, FourFourTwo & British Rowing, amongst others.
@toby_bryant_ on Instagram and Twitter.