Craig David's 'The Time Is Now' Is Fine but Forgettable

Photo courtesy of RCA Records

The Time Is Now feels remarkably lightweight, in the best and the worst of senses. It is a very easy album to like, in that there's very little anger or melancholy or negativity to be found.

The Time is Now
Craig David

Speakerbox RCA

26 Jan 2018

Craig David is one of those names that in 2018 evokes an instant hit of nostalgia, despite the fact that the guy is only 36 years old. There was a moment when he was the Next Big Thing, an energetic bridge between R&B and garage, a rare (particularly for the late '90s/early '00s) pop star with honest-to-goodness credibility. He was a superstar in the UK, and well on his way in the USA, and then he just kind of disappeared.

Well, that's not entirely fair. David didn't disappear so much as people moved on, as they do. We stopped paying attention. And there he was, still making music, still writing songs, still doing very much what he was doing when he was popular, except with far fewer people watching.

It is this Craig David that we get in 2018, which is to say, it's remarkable just how much he sounds like the Craig David of 2000. His voice has not taken on any of the weathering of age, he still has the exact same quick vibrato that he always did, and he even continues to spend a lot of time with the 2-step beats that made his sound so distinctive all those years ago. He found his lane so early, and he doggedly, admirably sticks to that lane despite his waning audience.

This is a long way of saying: The Time Is Now feels remarkably lightweight, in the best and the worst of senses. It is a very easy album to like, in that there's very little anger or melancholy or negativity to be found. The songs are about finding love, about living in the moment (as indicated by the title), about using our gifts to make ourselves and others feel good. As such, it is also almost painfully ephemeral, a series of songs that do not leave any lasting impact beyond the moment in which you hear them, and about which you are unlikely to think about or react in any sense beyond mild enjoyment or mild annoyance. It's music for the background, it's music to be heard but not necessarily listened to, music for when you're doing something fun.

Opener "Magic" drives this home very quickly. It's an upbeat and twinkly song that'll immediately trigger a weird nostalgia for early '00s pop radio, complete with a loose acrostic of a chorus that would actually be horrifyingly awful if it were meant to be taken completely seriously: "M for the way you make me feel / A 'cause you always keep it real," and so on. Truly, though, David is not doing this to write the love song to end all love songs, and as a song meant to make its listener smile for a second, well, it does the job. First single "Heartline" is similar in its vibe and its conceit, and also sports the single catchiest chorus on the album. "Love Me Like It's Yesterday" is the most like one of David's own old hits, a two-step marvel whose plea for old emotions could also be a thinly-veiled nod to past successes.

That said, the level of banality to which David will climb to achieve the sort of fun-loving view of himself that he's cultivating here is awfully high, as exemplified by the truly embarrassing "For the Gram". It's about Instagram, you see. "Don't forget the hashtag," David sings. It doesn't take long to start wishing it would end, just to save this obviously well-meaning artist further embarrassment.

There are some moments that leave a bit of an impact, though, but they're not the light and fluffy moments, nor are they the embarrassing ones. They're the moments where David teams up with other artists, absorbing their talents and letting his own good-natured croon stand alongside them rather than on top of them. Producer and critical darling KAYTRANADA shows up for one track, and the beat he puts together is the most impressive thing on the album, a cut 'n' paste assembly that doesn't sound out of place on the album, but still manages to best the rest of what's here. David does his typical thing, crooning lyrics like "Let me upgrade your day, we're all basic \ Don't carry the weight of all the problems we had yesterday," which is fine but forgettable, and rapper GoldLink does a fine but forgettable rap to change things up, but it's clearly KAYTRANADA's show. The same goes for Bastille, whose guest-starring spot on "I Know You" sounds, yes, like a Bastille song, which is fine, but being memorable for making the album's artist disappear maybe isn't the best way to stick out on an album.

The Time is Now is fine. It's adequate. You might find some mixtape material on it. You might even find the album on your streaming service of choice, remember the name Craig David, play the new album, and say "hey, this isn't half bad."

By the time the next day rolls around, though, you'll forget it ever existed. Craig David seems like a decent, fun-loving human being, at least by the image he allows his music to portray. That's not necessarily enough to make for lasting, memorable music.


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