One of rare X Factor success stories of recent years (i.e. someone whose name is still familiar more than 12 months after the show), Olly Murs may have lasted the distance longer than most – but is his music still relevant?
With four albums now under his belt, it's clear that the 30-year-old Essex man is going for a new Stateside market: guests on Never Been Better include Travie McCoy (who turns in a rap verse on the generic 'Wrapped Up') and Demi Lovato, who lends her voice to the chugging folk-led twang of 'Up'.
To that end, Murs seems like an artist in transition, and unfortunately it's to this album's detriment. Apparently determined to shake off his 'cheeky chappy' pop image for a collection that attempts to be both mature and carefree, Never Been Better subsequently sounds simply confused. 'Did You Miss Me?' and the title track adopt a dance-led playfulness, yet the string-infused, heart-on-sleeve ballads ('Hope You Got What You Came For', 'Nothing Without You') are emotion-by-numbers and the bustling brass and dance beats of 'Stick With Me' sound clumsy and heavy-handed.
His co-write with Paul Weller ('Let Me In') is a little better, but Murs sounds most comfortable on the enjoyably nifty upbeat pop of 'Can't Say No'. True, it sounds a little like a Bruno Mars cast-off, and time will tell whether there is room in the market for another Bruno Mars. In any case, this isn't a particularly convincing line of attack.
2.5 OUT OF 5