When James Bay released his comeback single ‘Wild Love‘ last month, we weren’t the only ones left feeling a little confused. After carving out a successful career built on indie-ish guitar tunes, a swerve into minimalist tropical pop felt ill-advised at best, and downright stupid at worst. Because even for a trend-aping bit of Radio 1 fodder, ‘Wild Love’ is a terrible song. It alienated Bay’s existing fan base who had been expecting another ‘Hold Back The River’ but were instead offered some sort of Chainsmokers B-side, while also failing to reach a new audience, peaking at an embarrassing 39 on the UK singles chart.
But Bay seems to have learned from his mistake, furiously backpedalling on his new tune, indie rock track ‘Pink Lemonade’, released just in time for his Saturday Night Live debut this weekend.
The obvious question is why. Why wasn’t this chosen as Bay’s comeback single? Because not only is it miles better than ‘Wild Love’, it’s perhaps better than anything Bay has done before. A throwback to mid-noughties indie, it’s a clattering bit of Brit-rock that would feel at home amidst the pages of 2006 NME (RIP guys), sandwiched between a rave review of a Maccabees show and some fawning piece about The Mighty Boosh. Bay plays the role of preening indie heartbreaker with ease, infinitely more convincing as a guitar-wielding rock wannabe than the polished pop star of ‘Wild Love’.
On ‘Pink Lemonade’, Bay leaves the overly earnest dirge-pop of his debut album behind and offers something with a little more bite, something that, although by no means original, would at least get a few scenesters bopping at an indie disco. Its catchy “Do you wanna talk?” refrain is reminiscent of some of the catchier choruses of the mid-noughties, channelling the suave edge of Franz Ferdinand and mass appeal of Razorlight, wrapping it up in a Vaccines-esque fuzz. Though there’s no doubt this is little more than posing, Bay just trying on hats until he finds one that fits, it makes for an enjoyable distraction, and one that will surely please his more guitar-minded fans. If only he could erase ‘Wild Love’ from all our memories, this would be a very promising introduction to the second coming of James Bay.