With their debut album “Warm on a Cold Night,” British pop duo HONNE attempts to persuade the world they feel the most deeply and emotively of all male pop singers.
Their invocation of smooth, synth-laden jazz and soul provides a pleasant listening experience, but the superficiality of the lyrics causes HONNE’s supposedly intense feelings to seem like a con man’s facade rather than an authentic expression.
The album begins with the titular track “Warm on a Cold Night,” which was originally released on the EP in September 2014. The voice of a late-night radio DJ introduces the album.
“OK, it’s 3:17 a.m., you’re tuned in with your main man Tommy Inglethorpe. This next song is going to keep you warm on a cold, cold night,” the DJ says. “So if you don’t got a lover, just close your eyes and listen to HONNE.”
This late-night radio feel continues throughout the album with other spoken vocal samples, such as the ones on “The Night”and “Out of My Control.” But rather than adding an element of sexiness or intrigue, the samples come off as a bit corny.
HONNE has their sound down to a science, with every last beat and layer upon layer of synth deliberately placed. Undoubtedly, each track on the album will get listeners’ toes tapping. However, this meticulousness actually renders their album somewhat monotonous, since little variety comes through across all fourteen tracks.
Each song follows a predictable mold: Start with a minimal, chill vibe, pick it up a bit initially by adding some more layers of electronic beats, bring it back down, and then pick it up a second time to finish with an abrupt or fade-out ending. They’ve nailed their sound down so completely that barely anything stands out.
The exception is “Someone That Loves You,” and that’s thanks to a duet feature with Izzy Bizu, whose slinky voice shares the same pull of Rozes’, the singer of the popular Chainsmokers track “Roses.” The HONNE track “FHKD” also tries to break out of the monotony with muffled lyrics and a house-inflected feel; but with no real builds or drops, it doesn’t achieve anything groundbreaking.
The album continues in the vein of many young male pop singers such as Chromeo and LANY by employing lyrics designed to make the artists seem like “the good guys” – more sincere and genuine than other men, who objectify women. Many of the tracks’s lyrics, however, come off as eye-narrowingly sleazy.
Some music with questionable lyrics have melodies and hooks that are distractingly good enough to allow the listener to ignore the lyrics. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with HONNE.
All of the tracks cover familiar themes: wishing the singer could be somewhere else with somebody else in “Coastal Love”, trying to convince someone to stay the night in “The Night” and expressing a desire to be wanted in return in “All in the Value”. In itself, this would not be a problem, since the majority of pop songs cover these topics.
Unfortunately, HONNE’s lyrics’ incredible simplicity causes all of these heartfelt emotions to seem shallow. The lyrics “You make me feel much better / Cause girl we’re good together,” from “Good Together,” is probably one of the most wince-worthy of the lot, prompting the listener to wonder whether HONNE’s lyrics are childishly simple on purpose. If so, they’re not doing much for them.
While the album is lackluster overall, it’s still a good listen. “Out of Control,” which begins with the rapid sound of a heart monitor, could be an homage to Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” with a bassline reminiscent of “Pusher Love Girl.” The offbeat guitar strums of “All In the Value” recall a nervous high-schooler edging closer to the object of their affection and features a squiggly guitar solo that any funk fan could appreciate.
Perhaps the problem of “Warm on a Cold Night” is its length at fourteen tracks. With fewer songs, HONNE’s sound wouldn’t have come off as so repetitive. But with three EPs to their name already, the pressure to include previously successful tracks along with a solid amount of new music resulted in simply too much of a good thing.
— Erin Nyren