After a four-year hiatus between major content (though he has been busy in the meantime), James Bay has finally released his third studio album Leap — and it is glorious. After his brief derivation into a strong pop style with 2018’s Electric Light, Leap marks a welcome return to his uniquely blended style Indie style that’s largely influenced by R&B, folk, and alternative, with pop influences holding a slightly more influential weight than the days of Chaos and the Calm. By and large, the album has a more upbeat vibe than albums of days past — though the occasional somber track still makes an appearance. Below, check out our in-depth track by track review of the long-awaited Leap!
1. “Give Me The Reason”
The first of the singles that Bay released ahead of the full album, “Give Me The Reason” immediately gripped audiences — and for good reason. In this catchy ballad about finding reasons to fight for a relationship, Bay showcases his ability to meld and reconcile the themes of heartbreak and passionate love as he often does in his songs. Structured in the form of a lover pleading for a reason to fight for someone they love in the wake of all the good times the lovers shared, this song is definitely an earworm — especially with that piercing opening.
2. “Nowhere Left to Go”
This quietly upbeat song is a love letter about wanting to know one’s lover down to the very atom — in mind, body, soul, and spirit. The gentle tone and medium tempo makes it the perfect song for listening on repeat.
3. “Save Your Love”
This song is about protecting your heart and finding the right person for you — the one who will always be there throughout your ups and downs. One of my personal favorite tracks on the album, ”Save Your Love” sees Bay keep to the lower end of his vocal register (though not as low as ”We Used to Shine” — that opening low note still gets me every time), giving the song a full, rich sound that will have you pressing that replay button time after time.
4. “Everybody Needs Someone”
As social creatures, we as people intrinsically seek out that special sense of connection with others. It’s integral to our emotional well-being. And that’s what this song is all about. One of the more somber songs from the album in terms of lyrics — but in my opinion, one of the most powerful numbers — this track is about yearning for that special someone that’s waiting out there to complete ”half a lonely soul.”
5. “One Life”
The second of the singles released ahead of the full album, “One Life” is a delightful love song that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy every time you listen to it. Inspired by Lucy Smith, Bay’s long-time partner, childhood sweetheart, and mother of his recently born child, “One Life” perfectly showcases that feeling of finding the one. Every line conveys what it’s like to know you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, that person you can envision an entire future unfolding with, and bursting with the feeling of wanting to let them know how much they mean to you. The perfectly tailored music video just adds another visual level to the waves of pure love radiating from this piece, making it even the more better.
6. “Silent Love”
One of the few songs that could be described as down on this album, which largely has many happy tunes, a tad deviation from the composition of previous albums. This song is about the painful experience of missing out on love because of the inability to express one’s feelings. While many songs from Leap can be described as being filled with longing, this is the only one that truly conveys regret. The listener can really immerse themselves in the speaker’s struggle of having this all-consuming passion contained within themselves. Another interesting thing to note is this song has an explicit version, deviating from Bay’s normally clean style.
7. Love Don’t Hate Me”
The feel and pace of this song is honestly kind of at odds with the tale of combative love that it spins. In a way, it mimics the constant high level of passion that permeates the described relationship, whether it be in a good or bad way at any given moment. Describing a relationship that frequently swings like a pendulum from satisfying to frustrating, you’ll somehow find yourself bopping your head along to the speaker’s pleas to their lover to see past their faults in a heat of the moment where they’ve been let down by their significant other.
8. “Brilliant Still”
In this song about loving someone when they’re at their lowest and unable to see past that blip darkness, Bay describes a level of unwavering love and support that everyone desires as the speaker works to remind their partner about how wonderful they are.
9. “Right Now”
This track immediately stuck out to me over every other song on the album. This stripped-down number works because of its simplicity; the limited elements allow Bay’s vocal talents to shine through in a work of art that, in my opinion, resembles his old work the most out of any of his most recent discography in terms of tone and style. This is easily something I could see someone like Alicia Keys (whom Bay admires and has collaborated with in the past) covering with its subtle soulful influences. Thematically, “Right Now” mirrors the message permeating “One Life” of knowing with absolute certainty that someone is the one. However, while “One Life” sees time unfold as the speaker envisions all the moments ahead of them in life with their partner, “Right Now” describes the narrowing of time down to that one special moment where they simply have to let them know they’re the one for them.
10. “We Used to Shine”
The opening notes of this song truly startled me as Bay dipped far into his lower register — a rarety for the singer, who’s well known for his falsetto — continuing to display the wide berths of his vocal range. By starting off in such a low register, Bay is able to slowly build up in parallel with the narrative events of the song, in which the speaker tries to pull their relationship out of a rough patch by urging their partner to remember the good times they’ve had together.
11. “Endless Summer Nights”
This song feels like flipping through a stack of polaroids after a memorable night out with friends, never wanting this particular era of your life to end. One of the shorter tracks on the album, it simultaneously imbues you with the sense of the fleetingness of time while encompassing that craving for the endless feeling of summer while being young, dumb, and falling in love.
Ending the album with a softer track, this song conveys a quiet feeling of certainty of one’s place at their love’s side. Describing shouldering the burdens of life together, the sweet croon of Bay’s voice communicates how the speaker’s life is enhanced by the presence of their lover in their life in every way (“‘Cause everything’s better/As soon as you’re next to me”). With every note and every strum of the guitar, it radiates this quiet sense of contentment that comes from knowing right where you’re supposed to be, contrasting with the opening track which is all about the uncertainty of whether or not a relationship can withstand the trials it’s going through but fighting for it anyway. With that circular closing to the overarching narrative of the album, “Better” is a great song to put Leap to rest.
We’re beyond excited that Leap is finally available and can’t wait to see what James Bay does moving forward from this project. As always, stay tuned for news of the English singer-songwriter’s career moves and check out our other coverage of him, including our B-Sides and Beyond feature of some of his other work.