Review: Lewis Capaldi – Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent
National Music Reviews
Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent
Lewis Capaldi = Dermot Kennedy x Niall Horan
For Lewis Capaldi, the sophomore summit—what artists face after astronomical success from a debut album (in his case, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent)—was no doubt a climb. How can it not be, after releasing tracks such as “Someone You Loved” and “Before You Go?”
It was a climb, though, that ended with a triumphant and heavenly view. At first glance, his second studio album, Broken By Desire to Be Heavenly Sent seems the complete opposite of the first. Take the covers alone: the first red, featuring a close-up of Capaldi looking stressed; the second a zoomed-out shot of him sitting on a staircase with a blue and lilac background.
That’s where—thankfully—the differences end. Capaldi could (though he probably shouldn’t share his gift) teach a masterclass in heartfelt songwriting. It’s present in both albums; undiluted, true and on the new one, perhaps even more intact.
Take “The Pretender,” a gut-wrenching rumination on imposter syndrome. All of Capaldi’s songs are rich in emotional depth, but this is the one that gives you the most insight into him as a person. “I spend almost all of my time feeling like I’m falling even further behind,” he croons, “I know I’m so good at seeming like I’m not on the edge of the knife.”
It’s something fans got a glimpse of—the parts of himself he keeps hidden from the public—in his Netflix documentary, How I’m Feeling Now. Capaldi has Tourette’s syndrome, as the documentary shows, and the film explores how he deals with that while touring and being in the spotlight. That insightful, introspective lyricism that has become his brand is present on other tracks, too, such as “Burning,” “How This Ends,” and the cut-of-a-knife-like song “How I’m Feeling Now.”
Capaldi’s long album titles and wordy lyrics lend itself to that brand, and it’s something few artists can pull off successfully. Take the opening verse of the fourth track, “Heavenly State of Mind”: “It’s almost cruel / The blue in your eyes / The kind of blasphemy that makes a congregation cry.” It rolls off his tongue with ease, painting a picture in seconds. It plays with the idea of being saved—or condemned—by art, music or someone specific. It’s full of illustrious imagery and candescent light.
The chorus of the song delves into the album’s core theme of being “heavenly sent” or saved. It’s something he elaborates on in the Apple Music summary of the album: “I think we all attempt to be heavenly sent. I think what I mean by that is to be good at something.”
Most remarkable about this second album is Capaldi’s ability to respond to calls for more marketable music—songs that are happier, poppier, easy to play on airwaves, as an executive at his record company says in his documentary (and internet trolls beg for)—but still stay true to himself and the core of what makes his work so impactful. He’s not a sellout, but rather a smart musician and a jack of all trades.
Lead singles off the new album, such as“Forget Me” and “Pointless,” scratch that itch perfectly, but you can still point to them and say, “That’s a Lewis Capaldi song.” Critics may say all of Capaldi’s songs sound the same as they deal with unrequited love, a broken heart or something in between, but each Capaldi song is unique and captures a different take or point of view. One just needs to look for it.
The tracklist placement is interesting in that regard: “Forget Me” opens the album with a petty pop anthem full of his signature gritty drawls and is followed by “Wish You the Best,” a passionate and apologetic song full of longing.
With Broken By Desire to Be Heavenly Sent, Lewis Capaldi most likely felt pressured to prove himself, again, as all artists do. The album does the work for him. He can do slow and sad, upbeat and sad and everything in between. His signature songwriting style and ability to distill emotions so concretely carries him to the very top of his sophomore summit. –Palak Jayswal