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Tom Grennan – What Ifs & Maybes Review

With a telling, on-the-fence title such as this, it is no wonder Tom Grennan’s new march through affable pop structures is so tiresome. Genuine and emotionally pertinent pop possibilities are left in the dust for a collection of collaborations and hopeful chart-topping experiments. Gather your mental strength and prepare the eardrums for another bit of sonic slop. Another example, like Niall Horan, of a strong voice wasted on barebones structures of the inevitable pop chart filler. Appeal to the pocket of megafans, create a bubble for them to breathe in. Bursting this bubble is the culture shock Grennan should be providing with his third album, but What Ifs & Maybes is gratingly uninspired despite featuring a few fine moments.  

It is easier to connect with more when a message is broader. The lives of those listening are as dull as those connecting with the vast simplicity of losing love. Grey paste for the empty soul. Just such a letdown, not just for those who are not hypnotised by shiny objects and the pursuit of finding the self through basic apologies and remembering the past on the aptly titled Remember Me. Fill in the blanks of the “oh oh oh’s” which are placeholders where actual experience is usually included. Grennan is not a usual musician though, he is a marketing strategy with bits of albums attached. It is not lazy; What Ifs & Maybes is finely tuned to appeal to those scared of counterculture or challenging themselves. An absolute and grotesque waste of the instrumental talents and beats provided by the likes of Crown Your Love. Facile tracks to trick the average music-goer.  

Bits and pieces like Here, the devastatingly simple rhyming and unconditional love which Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi already champion with the same, ever-so-slightly gruff octave changes, are worthless. When all seventeen tracks are about gaining or losing love, the simplicity of the message and the similarity of the continued instrumentals soon become grating and ineffectual. Change is challenging, and despite holding this message in his heart, Grennan makes no swaps to his similar style, for fear he loses his listeners through a style they are not comfortable listening to on repeat. It brings about nothing new for the initial charms he has in his voice, one which can absolutely be useful, elsewhere. Tannoy systems have more heart than the latter moments of What Ifs & Maybes. At least location is personal, nothing about this pop-ready filler feels like a truthful connection. 

You can zone in and out of What Ifs & Maybes and not notice the song has changed. Sickly, emotionless string sections and thumping piano sections on This Side of the Room trick the animals who listen to this like Pavlov’s dog into having an emotional reaction. Hands on the heart, sickly and loved-up tracks of hopeful and empty intent are far too frequent to make a real connection with. Nothing impressive in the writing, just the empty metaphors Grennan pulls in to understand the feeling of love and love alone. Nothing more, no change beyond the drum beat pace denoting positives and slower ballads deemed negative. Each track is interchangeable, each could be flipped and have the exact same interpretation regardless of scope. Conveyer-belt produced music, and not particularly interesting at that.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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