Conor Maynard is contemplating how swiftly pop trends change. Like every successful, young artist, he knows that taking time out to record a new album means some of his fans may move on. Like far too few, however, he would rather run that risk than be stuck in a sonic rut.
The 1.61 million Mayniacs who follow Conor on Twitter (and the millions more on other social sites) aren’t going anywhere. Conor’s as-yet-untitled second album is as deftly infectious a collection of songs as his chart-topping, four hit single-spawning debut, Contrast. But it’s also more adventurous, more mature and more dazzlingly diverse. The old fans will be delighted. The new ones will wonder what’s hit them.
Conor’s fans shouldn’t be surprised. The Justin Bieber comparisons of the past were always more to do with his age, baby face and how he was discovered (posting DIY covers on YouTube) than the music he made. 2012’s Contrast featured collaborations with Pharrell, Frank Ocean and Ne-Yo (who tried to sign him) and proved how adept the then teenager was at adapting his voice to suit different styles.
When, in October 2013, in league with fellow musical maverick Labrinth, Conor released the single ‘R U Crazy’ (which will feature on the new album), there was no formula to follow, but he ripped up the rulebook anyway. The silver-selling, dancefloor-filling, bass-heavy Top 5 hit was a dark, stark step away from Conor’s R&B roots that connected with older fans.
Further sessions with Labrinth last year produced forthcoming single ‘Royalty’, a song so gloriously bonkers and relentlessly inventive it demands its own genre – speakeasy electro, perhaps? Jazz trumpets, swing, sawing strings and plinky piano blend seamlessly with futuristic electronic R&B on what may prove 2015’s most audacious pop hit.
What ‘Royalty’ has in common with much of the album is its reclaiming of retro sounds for the present day. Lead single ‘Talking About’ updates ‘90s garage with modern production. That it was written with Craig David, a childhood hero of Conor’s, makes it all the more authentic.
Since releasing Contrast, Conor’s life has changed. Two years spent touring Europe and the States saw him return to Britain desperate to have a place to call home. He bought a house outside London where he set up a studio and taught himself to produce. The album contains his first entirely self- penned and self-produced song, the skittery beats-backed ‘Catch Me Here’.
Exactly three years on from the release of his first single, Conor finally feels like the artist he hoped he would become.
“When my first album came out, I was 19,” he recalls. “I’d only just moved out of my parents’ house and I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I kept recording and suddenly, we had an album. With the new album, I’ve taken my time and made exactly the music I wanted to.”