MJ Cole - Crazy Love
MJ Cole is frustratingly hit-and-miss for me. His '98 single "Sincere" was actually the first UK garage track I'd heard, and I loved its shimmeringly nebulous reversed-strings arrangement and mournfully bereft vocals. However my estimation of him went down rapidly as I came across a number of different tracks and remixes by the guy, which seemed to be distressingly smug and samey. A typical Cole track is little more than delicate atmospherics and an understated, "refined" breakbeat, with some soulful crooning on top.
More than any other UK producer, Cole harks back to the golden dream of US Garage, where the more impossibly rich the production, the better. This wouldn't actually be a problem for me if Cole's formula (UK garage minus the bassline and the badboy energy) didn't seem to so thoroughly miss the point. As it is, I feel that as long as he continues to work in this mould, this undeniably talented producer will continue to bang his head against a glass wall.
"Crazy Love" is the sound of Cole hitting that wall. It's by far the best thing he's done yet, and I doubt he'll better it, a suspicion that ambivalent advance reports on the album seem to confirm. But let's talk about this. "Crazy Love" is brilliant because it forces its genteel urges to fit into a rigorous pop template, that is in fact reminiscent of The Artful Dodger's "Moving Too Fast". Like on that track and Y-Tribe's "Enough Is Enough", the vocalist here has a bit of bite and personality which rescues her from the cliches of the garage diva. It's in the way she has to really struggle to fit "This may not be what I need, but/I think I'm way past reasoning" into the melody that gets me - sometimes ungainliness overcome with grace is more impressive than grace alone.
But what really makes this track magical is that even The Artful Dodger, who are classically trained as the media constantly inform us, could not come up with something as proudly aristocratic as the sprightly pizzicato strings that bounce and skip like butterflies in your heart, even more jittery than the two-step beat. A world away from the insipid fluffiness of his other work, "Crazy Love" avoids sharing their tedium by being too impulsively joyful to be conscious of its own refinement. If only Cole could remember to forget more often.