Vulnerable and cool, Raleigh Ritchie's debut has balls (even if his GoT character doesn't!).
Jacob Anderson is without doubt a talented young man. As an actor, he is known to many as the second most famous (but definitely the most fearsome and endearing) eunuch in “Game of Thrones” where he plays loyal warrior Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied army and servant to Daenerys Targaryen, the show’s Queen of Dragons.
As a musician under his stage name of Raleigh Ritchie he adds another string to his bow (no pun intended) as a singer, songwriter, rapper and producer.
Born in Bristol, nearly a decade ago he moved to London in order to work on his music career and now, aged just 25, he has starred in big TV shows (he also did a stint in “Broadchurch”), theatre and hit films and now unleashes his debut album “You’re a Man Now, Boy” after slowly releasing tracks over the last few years and getting plenty of interest alongside some very clever visuals in his videos such as “Stronger Than Ever”.
His influences are varied, including David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, the Smiths and Erykah Badu and his soulful genre-hopping sound would appeal to fans of Ed Sheeran, Plan B, Sam Smith, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd and Justin Bieber. Across 12 tracks (plus 6 bonus ones on the deluxe edition), Raleigh explores what it is to be young and to grow up and be in and out of love and favour.
Opening track “Werld is Mine” begins all striking piano (like Muse doing “Feeling Good”) and Raleigh sets his stall out “I wanna live forever/I wanna be your friend/I wanna rule together/I wanna be your pair/I wanna make some money money money…”. There’s pulsing rhythm to the drums and deeply soulful backing vocals as Raleigh switches from melodic singing to more insistent rapping.
The six tracks released as singles along the long road to this album’s release are a really impressive set with “Stronger Than Ever” already proving its cinematic worth by soundtracking several TV adverts and sounding like it should be over the end credits of a bittersweet ending to a gritty drama. Raleigh’s vocals are sweet, there’s more driving piano and stirring strings before it all builds, crescendo after crescendo with a refrain all about growing up and seizing opportunities.
“Bloodsport ‘15” is the track Radio 1 in particular have been fond of, having it on heavy rotation across the last few months. Sounding a little like his character in “Game of Thrones” or a similarly devoted follower, Raleigh sings about giving himself utterly over to his love, despite the pain and again, the song is a sweet mixture of plaintive vocal, mournful strings and determined drums. I was sold on the song from first listen, but there’s a moment in the song (just after the video game style trilling) at 2:44 when suddenly, Raleigh’s laidback singing switches to a slightly more aggressive rap punctuated by a powerful burst of vocal again as he really hammers home his dedication to his love.
“Keep it Simple” is a whole different kettle of fish, sounding like Shalamar or Bruno Mars, all 80s sunshine and synths and far more suited to a summery beach or dancefloor. There’s even room for a guest appearance from rapper Stormzy. “The Greatest” continues the 80s vibe, this time channelling a bit of Outkast or the Neptunes in an ode to creating your own future and being happy with it. The beginning of “Never Better” is another cool cut, which starts with a downbeat Lionel Richie/Tina Turner mood before soaring into a euphoric chorus of strings and drum loops.
Other tracks which stand out are “A Moor” (very fashionably Bieber-esque or Major Lazer-ish), “I Can Change” which is probably my favourite non-single at the moment, with its disco strings bringing to mind Gnarls Barkley and Plan B, and the title track, which brings to mind the mundane lyrics of The Streets with all of Mike Skinner’s charming delivery and catchy melodies.
Raleigh is one of those personalities it’s going to be hard to disassociate with his most famous acting role, which is certainly at the moment Grey Worm in “Game of Thrones”. He’s a softly spoken, fiercely loyal, well-mannered and somewhat tragic character with soulful eyes and a sad backstory. “You’re a Man Now, Boy” gently sits alongside this image with a slightly more sweary, urban, 21st century vibe and certainly showcases Raleigh Ritchie as an interesting, talented young man with a bright future.