The soulful singing voice of Plan B gripped a nation of all ages and musical interests. By creating a fresh retro vibe and applying it to soppy love song lyrics (with the occasional twisted underlining themes of prison murder), Drew found huge commercial success whilst re-establishing the fine art of music. However, fans of his last album may find themselves in a state of shock when first hearing ‘Ill Manors’. Although Drew’s unique singing voice is still present on tracks such as ‘Deepest Shame’ and ‘Live Once,’ it remains diluted in an album of hip-hop, regional accents, scripted dialogue and other featured artists.
Written as a soundtrack for Drew’s directorial debut, the story-telling proves vital to the album’s success. There is a hard-hitting truth of abuse, drug taking and broken society to the album, which a lot of modern songwriters wouldn’t dare tackle. Not Plan B. The album starts as it means to go on, with ‘Oi! What you looking at you little rich boy!’ shouted in the chorus, featuring a track which draws us into an intimidating assault of the ears. If it wasn’t for the steady rhythms, processed beats and occasional piano and strings input, the album would fall into a dark poetic rut that the listener may just switch off from. However, Plan B manages to find just the right balance of musicality needed, without taking anything away from the spoken word.
Once again embracing the sound of his debut album, ‘Who Needs Actions When You Got Words?’ ‘Ill Manors’ is a real return to Plan B’s original roots. This album is an attempt to blend the two established yet juxtaposing musical styles Plan B is known for, into a concrete sound of ‘Broken Britain’ that is accessible to a much wider audience. Despite the early assumption that the album would not be commercially successful, emotional turmoil and an honest approach to song writing instead have a welcomed return to popular music, and fill a hole that the likes of Will.I.Am and Cheryl Cole never could.
Whether you are into gangster rap, brutal lyrics, and soulful overtones or not, you have to give credit to what Ben Drew has accomplished. It takes guts to release such an honest, personal record, knowing it’s going to distress a lot of people (potentially including fans of your last album). However, by taking the risk of staying true to the genre that was going to deliver his message the best, Plan B has made a brave move which has definitely paid off.