Tim de Lisle
Did you have a song that got you through the long days of lockdown? Mine was James Blake’s sublime cover of Stevie Wonder’s Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer. It takes courage to step into Wonder’s shoes but Blake (above), like George Michael before him, has the guts – and the lungs. Still only 33, Blake is the most influential British musician since Radiohead. His elegant minimalism has inspired everyone from Beyoncé to Billie Eilish. His speciality is the anguished electro-ballad, which could be a problem now he’s found domestic bliss in LA with Jameela Jamil, the actress and DJ. But he does tend to look on the dark side of life, so he’s still brooding about break-ups – from friends now, rather than lovers. It’s a smart move, examining a type of bruise that everybody knows, and it plays to Blake’s strengths. You’ll have one ear on his golden voice and the other on his audacious production, which goes from a click of the fingers to a blast of church organ. Minimalism can be chilly, but in Blake’s hands it’s addictively soulful. Less is more-ish. He varies the pace by roping in gifted rappers such as SZA and JID, but the magic lies in the ballads, from the hauntingly intimate Say What You Will to the fearlessly vulnerable Funeral. I’m hoping they’ll be covered by Stevie Wonder.