Chloë Moloney listens to musician James Bay’s new single ‘Wild Love’ — but where has his new musical venture taken him?


James Bay’s debut studio album, Chaos and the Calm, rocked 2015 to its core. This album would be the one to hallmark Bay as an impeccable indie and folk-rock artist. The record, largely acoustic in its nature, was indeed one of the most successful albums of the year — taking the industry by storm.

A number of years have passed since the initial release of Bay’s album, and I’m sure that many of his fan base have been eager for new music. Luckily enough, the musician released his comeback single ‘Wild Love’ this week. However, the laid-back pop drive which anchors his new track may have taken a few of Bay’s fans by surprise.

Wild Love certainly leads its listener to an alternative destination from the path which Chaos and the Calm followed. Moving from a softer, gentler album to the electronic vibe of his new single, Bay’s decision to settle for a chart-topper style seems incongruous to the aura of his first album. The musician notes that this new, pop-style track claims a number of influential sources. The singer-songwriter added that Wild Love took its inspiration from Prince, David Bowie and Frank Ocean.

The music video for the single stars 21-year-old Natalia Dyer, most famous for her role as Nancy in the Netflix original series Stranger Things. The ‘intimacy’ which surrounded Chaos and the Calm has seemingly dissipated in the visuals supporting his new song. Both Bay and Dyer are seen in a nightclub setting, staring longingly at each other from across the crowded dance floor. The mass of club-goers in the background assuredly removes any original intimate and cherished connections; something that was prominent in his debut album, through songs such as ‘Let it Go’.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, James Bay added:

‘As soon as I recognized I was being pinned down as ”the intimate acoustic guitar guy” I realized I knew I had to push myself musically’.

Nonetheless, despite the stark shift in genre, there is no call for the artist to revert back to his raw and stripped-back quality. I don’t personally think James Bay has sold or burnt out. Instead, he is now placing greater value and energy towards his vast appreciation of musical genres. We are often prone to categorising a musician, with regards to the preliminary style through which they are first presented, without respecting the journey that their music might take in the future. It is best not to disparage or resent Bay for this shift in his artistic presence, but to support and embrace his changing endeavours.

In fact, Bay’s music is not the only thing about his style which has changed — he has additionally dropped the long hair and the fedora. The singer-songwriter has coupled his change in personal tone with a marked change in his outward appearance, stating in an interview with NME that: ‘it felt only natural to [him] to tear that canvas down and put a new one up’. Bay has unquestionably reinvented himself.

The singer-songwriter was inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’, aged eleven. By eighteen, he was playing a series of open mics in Brighton before the release of his first EP, The Dark of the Morning, in 2013. Chaos and the Calm, released two years later, heralded hits such as ‘Hold Back the River’, ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Best Fake Smile’. The album went to number one in the UK and to number 15 in the US. Alongside the prolific record itself, Bay was equally as successful at the Brit awards. In 2015, he received the Critics’ Choice award, before receiving Best British Male Solo Artist the following year.

Chaos and the Calm caressed some of the most sentimental and stirring lyrics out of James Bay’s career. ‘Hold Back the River’, one of the most notable tracks from Chaos and the Calm, held these nostalgic lyrics:

Once upon a different life / We rode our bikes into the sky / But now we call against the tide / Those distant days are flashing by

It would be harsh to say that James Bay has burnt out, at only 27. This switch in the singer’s musical tone is one that has, undoubtedly, shocked a few of his fans. Regardless, I look forward to the destination towards which Bay’s new musical venture will take his listeners.