Lewis Capaldi – ‘Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent’ review: overwrought and frustrating

The break-up ballads sound tired, but when he turns inwards there’s clear growth in Capaldi’s capabilities

“It’s fucking shit, honestly, don’t even bother with it,” Lewis Capaldi warned the CrystalStone Magazine somewhat sarcastically about ‘Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent’ in February. He said he was “sick of hearing” her second album, but then again this is the Glaswegian singer-songwriter and Gen Z hero’s calling card: self-deprecation to the extreme, all while masking a bigger truth.

He follows fellow British pop star Ellie Goulding – who called her most recent album her “least personal yet” – in diluting her latest material while gifting headline-worthy quotes. Speaking to The Times earlier this year, Capaldi admitted that making music, especially this record and the attention it would naturally garner, took a profound toll on his mental health: “I hate exaggeration , but it’s a very real possibility that I’ll have to do. How I’m Feeling Now, the recently released Netflix documentary about the making of ‘Broken by Desire…’, goes even further in its examination of whether How the pressure, and his recently diagnosed Tourette syndrome, are challenging Capaldi’s ability to create and enjoy something he clearly holds dear.

After the stupendous success of 2019’s ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extend,’ it made sense to run it back. When ‘Broken by Desire…’ was announced, Capaldi insisted that “I [didn’t] want to create a new sound, or reinvent myself”, and to do so he used the same album. Team used. And, if you were Capaldi or his label, why would you rock the boat? Several singles from this record – ‘Forget Me’, ‘Pointless’ and ‘Wish You the Best’ – have already reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, a feat becoming increasingly rare even for pop stars of similar stature. Used to be.

Which is to say, you know what this record will sound like already: quiet, slow-building verses punctuated by choruses that boast belting, toilet-adjacent vocal tensions. “Pointless” is so brazen in its trickery of being 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, only as a vehicle The caption-ready chorus appears. “Everything is meaningless without you,” he cries.

This creates a record that occasionally shows steady growth, but that potential remains largely untapped. ‘Forget Me”s subtle – and we do mean subtle – groove is more livable than the limp and uniform piano ballads of their debut album, while the Americana-tinged workings for Sam Fender in ‘Heavenly Kind of State of Mind’ There’s a touch of soundscape. ‘Leave Me Slowly’ is so indebted to ’80s power-ballads – including a goosebumps, grin-inducing guitar solo – that there’s a sense of confidence and pleasure in flipping the script somewhat.

Buried at the end of the record are its best moments, breaking away from the platitudes of punk, romance and instead indulging in something internal and powerful. On ‘How I Feel Now’, he ironically toasts his so-called “beautiful life” that seems to “leave me so unsatisfied” and has left him: “Thought I was happy somehow. Will stay”. Moments like this — the candid, the thick — are where Capaldi shows growth and where he should go next. You just wish that he would understand this sooner.


  • Release date: May 19, 2023
  • Record label: EMI Records

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