S-X – things change | Reviews

S-X has been through countless phases, numerous iterations. As a producer, he nailed the ‘Woo Riddim’ as a kid, steering one of grime’s core texts; voiced by D Double E, it remains a defining totem of the sound. Since then, though, he’s branched out – whether that’s creating bona fide hits alongside KSI or repping his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers, S-X has transformed himself into UK music’s foremost all-rounder.

‘things change’ embraces this evolutionary spirit. S-X has long since moved past those early grime elements, embracing a pop-engaged R&B sound marked by digital futurism. Featuring 15 tracks, the album it intended to mirror his questing spirit, and while it doesn’t quite capture his full breadth, it’s nonetheless an engaging work of slick, soulful pop. 

Neat opener ‘walk from me’ sets the tone, with its warm bed of synthetic sound, snapping 80s beats, and deft vocals. ‘need to know’ broadens this, while the twilight landscapes of ‘owe me’ seem redolent of neon strip joint lights and empty highways.

Indeed, there’s a curiously trans-Atlantic feel to ‘things change’. The spectre of the Weeknd – this generation’s foremost R&B hitmaker – sits in the background, and his shadow hangs over a few tracks. That’s a limiting comparison, though; S-X retains a UK slant, particularly in the vocal, and pop moments like ‘islands’ feel embedded in this Isles.

Refreshingly, S-X refuses to engage in feature culture, pushing his voice to the forefront. KSI team up ‘locked out‘ remains an ambitious link up between two friends, while the only other guest is the mighty Trippie Redd on ‘all night’ – imperious hip-hop production, augmented by a spot from the SoundCloud rapper.

A punchy 15 track statement, ‘things change’ embodies the pop prowess powering this aspect of the Midlands artist’s career. There’s a lingering feeling that he isn’t finished, however; if anything, the album underlines both how far he has come, and how far he can go.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray