Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Some artists just instinctively feel and understand a certain era and genre of music and can translate it into something with life and energy that goes beyond simply having the feel of that time.
NeverMann is an artist with that quality, and his album GentleMann proves it. His voice and musical style might be powerfully ‘80s-influenced but it never crosses into cliché. He’s got a jazzy, groove-based approach to retro synth pop that I personally enjoy.
To my mind, the most important part of GentleMann is NeverMann’s voice. He has a smooth, passionate delivery that is easy on the ears as it glides and flows through the music. There’s a deeply earnest quality to it, and I think that’s what makes it suit the ‘80s feeling of this album. Much like certain strains of ‘80s pop, he isn’t too cool to express emotion, and I dig that.
There are jazzy, funky elements to GentleMann that I also enjoy. There are moments where a deep funkified slap bass comes in along with the drums to create a strong groove. There are freewheeling and jazzy guitar solos along with the passionate warmth of the sax that cries out into the songs with a similar jazz-inflected sensibility. Altogether it creates a sound that’s engaging for the listener.
The melodic writing on this album is also quite strong. The melodies are of high quality and full of expression to suit NeverMann’s singing style. Sometimes they’re warm and bright, bursting with energy, and at other times there’s an aching, wistful quality to them that touches me. No matter what their tone and mood, they are never less than well done.
Although GentleMann is strongly influenced by the ‘80s sound, the production is pin-sharp and up-to-date. Everything sits cleanly in the mix and all of the parts blend well, but still have their own definition. This production quality enhances the overall sound of the album and emphasizes its positive qualities.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“Jody” has some great slap bass sounds over a deeper throb underneath. I am a fan of the jazzy, funky guitar tone moving over the nicely mixed bells and percussion. Flickers of shiny synth cut through the beat before NeverMann’s unique voice comes in, absolutely oozing ‘80s feelings. The melody is catchy and infectious as that percussion and the slap bass brings the tasty funk. This song has the vibes of pastel suits and sunglasses.
This is a classic pop song about aching for someone who seems unattainable. The yearning is clear in the lines, “Searching in your eyes, see the tension rise. You catch me when I stare, there’s something in the air.” There’s a sense of frustrated desire in the lyric, “Jody, you make me lose my head with these games you play” as he adds, “this love is so cliché, we’re so intertwined.”
The chorus hammers home the feeling of yearning as the narrator says, “And my heart cries: you’re my day, my night, the one I run to” and adds wistfully, “In another life and time, I’d have you.”
His plea is clear in the words, “I’m the one you need, you know this love is real” as he says that her voice changed his soul. He adds, “When you go I’m calling: every night and day my heart belongs to, there’s no way that I can make it through without you.”
Our narrator says that when she’s around, everything’s possible and that “in another space and time, maybe some day you will be mine.”
“All 4 U”
I enjoy how “All 4 U” starts out on soft, slightly fuzzed out piano and muffled vocal tones. The song crescendos into a driving beat that matches the surges of warm synth flowing into the music. NeverMann’s expressive voice carries a beautiful, energetic melody that washes through the track as the beat throbs. There’s a catchy chorus with soaring guitar behind it that launches into the music. The guitar solo has a roaming and jazzy feeling as it freewheels through the song.
There’s a strong expression of passionate love in “All 4 U” which is nicely written in the lines, “When you came in the door, you lit up the floor, I never felt this before going through my icy core.” I also like the rhyme scheme, “When I gave you my heart, yes to do my part, turning love into art before it even starts.”
The statement of commitment in the words, “When you’re taking my hand, make me understand, I’ll be forever your man, be your master plan” is touching and suits the tenderness of the vocals.
I also like the way he affirms his passion in the chorus, “Burning desire, walkin’ the wire, all for you. The flames of our fire, higher and higher, all for you” before he talks about being held tight “in the fading light” and how “we’ll be here through the night to forget our fights, break through.”
There’s a lovely piece of imagery in this verse in which NeverMann writes, “And when the lights shining through shift from black to blue, I surrender to you, turning one from two, forever you.”
“Used 2 B”
“Used 2 B” has a floating opening as warm synth sounds mover over the funky electric bass that dances into the song. The vocals gently caress the ears while groovy slap bass moves in along with the deep throb of drums under it. Nevermann’s iconic voice carries the slightly sad melody over that heartbeat underneath it. The way the bright piano chords flow in to match the vocal melody adds a richness to the song’s overall sound.
No good album with some pop sensibilities would be complete without a song of lost love. This is a good one. The song opens with the words, “I never got it, what you saw in me, somehow still meant to be. Now it’s history” and adds, “You never got it, what I saw in you. We didn’t know what to do and now we’re through.”
As time passes, our narrator asks if it was all a lie. The way he expresses the change and loss in the line, “Every time I’m walking past you, it’s changed how you used to be” is well done and this segment has nicely written variations as in, “It’s strange how we used to be and I don’t even feel without you, it’s strange how I used to be.”
The words, “got some fading Polaroid, like celluloid, slowly destroyed” are a beautiful way of showing how the passage of time slowly drains the colour out of once bright memories that fade away.
“The Sun Keeps Shining”
The combination of a smoothly gliding beat, shiny synths and a guitar that dreams and flies really has a strong pull for me on “The Sun Keeps Shining.” When you add the great JJ Mist’s classic voice in a duet with Nevermann the results are compelling. Their voices blend so well, both of them catching that ’80s feeling while the guitar has a jazzy edge that I enjoy. The synths glow and shimmer through the track as the vocals entwine over that catchy driving beat. The choice of percussion is also superb on this song.
I have always liked duets and this one with JJ Mist and NeverMann is not only well sung but well written. I especially like the exchange in which he sings, “The rain’s been falling every day but the summer’s far from over” to which she replies, “And now the sun is on its way, keeps my heart from getting colder.”
He admits that although they’ve never met he still knows her to which she answers, “You pull up with your car and I watch you from afar, you’re shining like a sun baby.”
I also like the chorus as they each say, “You’re the reason why I keep my shades on” and then together add, “Underneath I got my eyes on you, but the sun keeps shining, the sun keeps shining through.”
There’s a nicely worked out part in which NeverMann sings, “You tell your friends you’d like to stay though the sun’s just a glowing smolder” and JJ Mist responds, “Baby you’re on my mind, we’ve never met but I still know you.”
The song ends on an upbeat note as they sing, “Now that I’ve met you, I don’t wanna lose you. I just wanna hold you.”
“Celebrate” opens on an airy flow of synth and slightly distant vocals. A cool, smooth burst of sax comes into the music along with the pulsing beat. NeverMann’s voice comes in strong and adds its own gliding feeling as that strong beat moves under it. I’m drawn to the way that sax complements those vocals so full of tenderness and wanting. There are also shimmery synths on this song that add a lovely sparkle.
This is a love song if I’ve ever heard one. It is such a strong expression of the narrator’s intent as he says, “I’ll be there for you when you try to get by and I’ll do everything to make a clear sky” and there’s a little ache in the line, “I know you’ll get by without me but I don’t see no reason why you’ll need to cry.”
The chorus calls out and says, “Celebrate the love tonight, no other thing can win this fight and I know that’s your heart” before the narrator adds, “No matter what you do the love will never die, I’ll have your back no need for you to ask why.”
I like how he adds, “It’ll be you and I, never leave your side” before he goes on to say, “Let’s celebrate the love tonight, no other way to make this right” and I particularly like how the song ends on, “whenever you fight, I’ll be your shield.”
There’s a funky groove to “Acquired Taste” that I dig as the guitar moves over the disco house beat as NeverMann’s voice creeps into the mix, adding its super chill quality. The melody is hooky on this song and there are more unique, ear-catching percussion elements that kick in. The guitar adds its jazzy voice along with a sparkling warm synth over that strong beat. There’s also a nice sax solo with great smooth jazz vibes that roams and wanders freely and energetically through the song.
I like the expression of not wanting to change to suit someone, despite caring for them in this song. I like the rhyme in the lines, “I know, it can seem a little strange that I have no range but I can’t change for you” but he softens this with, “If you really get to know me, I’ll give you everything I have to give” before adding, “If you ever need me baby, I’ll be right here for you but please remember: I’m an acquired taste.”
There's a playful quality to the lyrics in the lines, “In everything you do, you seem to hug the middle way.You’re taking me to school and trying to cast me in your play” and he continues, “I have always been this way if you leave or stay and I can’t change for you."
Final Thoughts (What's the Verdict?)
GentleMann is an album that’s full of great qualities from the way it sits in the pocket and grooves to the strong instrumental performances. Along with entertaining lyrics and NeverMann’s classic voice, this was a thoroughly fun album to review and to hear.