Lewis Capaldi – ‘Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent’ review: overwrought and frustrating
“It’s fucking shit, honestly, don’t even bother with it,” Lewis Capaldi warned NME somewhat sarcastically about ‘Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent’ back in February. He added that he was “sick to death of hearing” his second album, but then this is the Glaswegian singer-songwriter and Gen Z hero’s calling card: self-deprecative to the extreme, all while masking a greater truth.
He follows fellow British pop star Ellie Goulding – who called her most recent album “her least personal yet” – in downplaying his latest material while gifting headline-worthy quotes. Speaking to The Times earlier this year, Capaldi admitted that making music, specifically this record and the attention it will naturally garner, is deeply impactful on his mental health: “I hate hyperbole, but it is a very real possibility that I will have to pack music in.” How I’m Feeling Now, the recently released Netflix documentary about the making of ‘Broken by Desire…’, goes even further in its examination of how the pressure, and his recently diagnosed tourette’s syndrome, is challenging Capaldi’s ability to make and enjoy something he clearly holds dear.
It made sense, then, to just run it back following the gargantuan success of 2019’s ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’. When ‘Broken by Desire…’ was announced, Capaldi stressed that “I [didn’t] want to create a new sound, or reinvent myself” and that he used the same team to do so. And, if you were Capaldi or his label, why would you rock the boat? Multiple singles from this record – ‘Forget Me’, ‘Pointless’ and ‘Wish You The Best’ – have romped to Number One on the UK Singles Chart already, a feat that is becoming increasingly rare even for pop stars of similar stature.
Which is all to say you know exactly how this record will sound already: quiet, slow-building verses are punctuated by choruses that boast belting, toilet-adjacent vocal strains. ‘Pointless’ is so resolutely blatant in its ploy to be mundane and relatable – “I bring her coffee in the morning / She brings me inner peace” – that it asks no questions of Capaldi or his audience, appearing as a vehicle solely for the caption-ready chorus. “Everything is pointless without you,” he wails.
It clouds a record that occasionally shows steady growth, but this potential remains largely untapped. ‘Forget Me’s subtle – and we do mean subtle – groove is more lively than his debut album’s limp and uniformed piano ballads, while on ‘Heavenly Kind of State Of Mind’ there’s a touch of the Americana-tinged soundscape that’s worked for Sam Fender. ‘Leave Me Slowly’ is so indebted to ‘80s power-ballads – including a hair-raising, grin-inducing guitar solo – that there’s a sense of confidence and joy in flipping the script somewhat.
Buried at the end of the record is its finest moment, one that does away with the gooey, romance platitudes and instead indulges in something inwards-looking and potent. On ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, he ironically toasts his so-called “beautiful life”, one that “seems to leave me so unsatisfied” and has left him wanting: “Thought I’d be happier somehow”. Moments like this – candid, coarse – are where Capaldi shows growth and where he should go next. You just wish he’d realised this sooner.
- Release date: May 19, 2023
- Record label: EMI Records