Lewis Capaldi

Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent review | Lewis Capaldi delivers a sophomore of soppy sameness

Lewis Capaldi releases his second album Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent four years on from his hugely successful debut. Whilst sticking to a tried and tested formula seems an obvious approach, it sounds samey nonetheless.


There’s a moment on the recently-released Netflix documentary Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now where the mask of a popstar slips. It’s not your typical mask, mind. Capaldi has long-been the anti-popstar; the funnyman with no filter, who brings up rimming on BBC Breakfast, or poses semi-naked with his burly figure for a single release, or allows himself to be compared to a young Liz Truss as part of promo for the aforementioned doc.

“Somedays I think this album’s fucking ready to go and it’s gonna be class; then other days I think, ‘Fuck, this is a million miles off’,” he says, shortly before slouching down, head-in-hands, almost bursting into tears. As he sits up, his twitching jaw and shoulders are a reminder of the Tourette’s syndrome he suffers from – which is both made worse by stress, and compounds it.

Some might be cynical about the use of well-funded documentaries that purport to show an “intimate portrayal” of an artist as really just giving manufactured vulnerability, but the evident anguish here is genuine enough (Capaldi isn’t faking his tics). Yet the irony is that, whilst he’s cast an image that borders on being a comedian, his musical output has mostly been lovelorn, sorrowful ballads.

Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent

This dissonance has wrought enormous and largely unforeseen success. The Scot’s debut, 2019’s Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, garnered enormous build-up off the viral success of ‘Bruises’. In many ways, Capaldi’s trajectory is the epitome of our times; an anti-hero who rejects previous pop cultural appeals, but remains a man of the people, plucked out by our online views and streams.

That isn’t to overlook Capaldi’s talents, of which there are many – not least that voice. Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent is self-aware of this. Its BRIT-nominated lead single ‘Forget Me’ put this front-and-centre, each chorus belted with more oomph than the last. It might be a track about not wanting an ex-lover to move on, but you can’t help but relate its pangs of “I’m not ready to let you forget me / Even after all this time” to a pronouncement of the singer’s return, four years on from his debut’s release.

No doubt it’s good to see the man’s return (in true Capaldi fashion he described the relief of its release as “very similar” to a colonic he once had), but the main crux of it is that almost every track hits the same. And, in turn, the whole album comes across like a B-side of the debut, albeit where a few tunes are superior. Given the huge success of Divinely Uninspired… you could hardly blame him (and indeed the powers that be) for not deviating from a tried-and-tested formula – yet to a large extent it’s a shame he doesn’t; leaving you, well, divinely uninspired.

Beyond its saccharine opening line of “I bring her coffee in the morning / She brings me inner peace”, ‘Pointless’ is a tender but rather predictable Capaldi number; equally, ‘Haven’t You Ever Been In Love Before?’ is an emotionally predictable ballad that could soundtrack many a soppy rom-com or Love Island episode – you know, the part in the series where they try and convince us these people have actual feelings for each other.

Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent Lewis Capaldi

Photo: Alexandra Gavillet

Judged in isolation – which is exactly how most of us do consume music nowadays, and why this album will still no doubt rack up the streams – there are some improved offerings. ‘Heavenly Kind Of State Of Mind’ does capture love’s euphoria and sounds in many ways like it could fit on James Bay’s overlooked third album Leap. The soft piano pitter-patter of ‘The Pretender’, meanwhile, ramps-up in a more captivating way than other tunes on the record.

But in its totality, one track fades, while another of near-identical emotional verve takes its place. Rather than waiting for desire to be heavenly sent, you’re left in a kind of sentimental purgatory; do you love me? You say you love me. I love you. You might love me. But maybe not?

Penultimate track ‘How This Ends’, with its perfect pop assortment of strings and acoustic guitar, confirms this: it might offer a message of finality, “the flowers are dead like the hearts in our chest”, but you just know there’s far more songs to be written in its likeness. The “On and on and on, on and on and on” of subsequent tune and album closer ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ unknowingly echoes the sentiment of listening to the record.

Perhaps the best part of all this is that the Scot won’t likely give two shites about any negativity. Yes, the Netflix documentary shows a star bearing the burden of expectation – and is a reminder that we all struggle – but Lewis Capaldi thrives off turning any criticism to his advantage. This album will almost certainly do well, it just sounds a little soppy.

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