Say hello to John Newman, one of the U.K.’s most promising young artists.
On Jan. 7, 2014, American audiences in their pajamas were introduced to John Newman in a major way thanks to a show-stopping performance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
While the 23-year-old singer’s brand of ’60s soul-infused pop has already made him a chart-topper in his native U.K., John’s raw vocals and slick footwork likely left a lot of U.S. viewers wondering just who this guy is — and how they could get more of him.
Well, Questlove, The Roots’ frontman and de facto “Late Night” bandleader, was certainly blown away, tweeting: “wow @JohnNewmanMusic brought his soul to @LateNightJimmy #ENERGY!” Fallon, meanwhile, used up far fewer of his allotted characters to get his point across: “He’s good.” Just about says it all, yeah?
Not quite. Despite all the Little Richard two-step and Joe Cocker swagger, the John we met at MTV HQ a couple weeks back was far more introverted than you’d expect — at least when he wasn’t performing. In fact, it turns that he was the starstruck one while performing on “Late Night.” To paraphrase John, Questlove was literally 10 feet away.
This sense of understanding his musical forebears is readily apparent right from the start of John’s debut studio album, Tribute. As the title track opens the LP, a swirl of iconic names are dropped in rapid, chronological succession: Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, The Jacksons, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé. “It’s all for you, it’s all for you,” John sings, addressing his idols. “For what you have made me, look how I grew/ Here’s my tribute.”
It’s all very Christina Aguilera circa Back To Basics; in order for John to make his mark on the music world, he must first pay his respects to the trailblazers who came before him. Acknowledgements made, the young Brit revs up his voice for Tribute’s lead single, “Love Me Again,” a preposterously catchy, desperate post-breakup track that’s already claimed the No. 1 spot on the U.K. charts months ago.
Throughout the rest of the disc, John switches up his M.O. from paranoid (“Losing Sleep“) and accusatory (“Cheating“) to wistful (“Easy”) and broken (“Out Of My Head”). Three constants remain throughout, though: heart-wrenching vocals, decidedly unplugged instrumentals, and an obvious inborn gift for his craft.
Curious to know just how infectious and life-giving John’s soul-pop energy can be? While Tribute’s not a bad place to start, be on the lookout for a string of live performances this spring. Along with a set at Coachella, John will be touring North America, kicking off in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 27.
Just in case the timing doesn’t work out for you, though, don’t stress. We expect you’ll have the opportunity to pay tribute to John Newman for many years to come.
+ Watch John Newman perform “Love Me Again” live, check out John Newman’s “Love Me Again” video, and download John Newman’s “Love Me Again (Live)” here. Find more videos, live performance clips, and interviews at JohnNewman.MTV.com.
Photo credit: Republic Records