We can expect big things from Leon Bridges. After his sweet, old-school debut album Coming Home, the Texan singer-songwriter became one of the hottest names in soul. He has now followed this rise to fame with a different, wider-reaching record that ties together a variety of styles around his delightfully smooth voice. It is an album that could help him reach a wider audience, yet it is not a complete success. There is the sense that Bridges is playing a little safe in places, with something even greater from him still hidden beneath.
The album gets off to a good start with a trio of excellent songs. Opener “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” is the kind of song Bridges does well; it is full of romance and soulful vocals, with an edge of pain that grows the more you listen to it. Then Bridges switches gears, as he does so often in the course of Good Thing’s 34 minutes. “Bad Bad News” and “Shy” are arguably the best two songs on the album. They’re accompanied by a heavier groove than anything Bridges has done before, highlighting a new tendency to turn towards modern R&B over the 60s Sam Cooke-style flavours of Coming Home.
Then come the seeming bids for mainstream success. “Beyond” is an unashamedly romantic song in the vein of a “Perfect” or “Wonderful Tonight”. It is by no means a bad song, in fact it’s a good one, and if “Perfect” can dominate the culture for so long then “Beyond” deserves a place somewhere near the top of the charts. There is just the sense that Bridges could push himself into less well-worn areas, perhaps into something more raw sounding. “Forgive You” has a similar problem, its nice sing-a-long chorus feeling like it won’t endure multiple listens as well as the rest of the album.
A variety of styles abounds on the second half of the album, or “side two” if you’ve got the vinyl (or maybe even the incredibly snazzy YELLOW vinyl). “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” is enormous fun, ramping up Bridges’ funky side. “You Don’t Know” is a likewise danceable number, with the singer this time embracing disco.
All in all, Good Thing is a very enjoyable second album from Leon Bridges. It ranges in style, but doesn’t feel too disjointed, partly thanks to Bridges’ consistently warm vocals (which now include some falsetto, by the way). The album ends on the jazzier “Georgia to Texas”, bringing more emotion and confessional songwriting to the table. It is a taster of what a really great Leon Bridges record could be; but then, you could say that of many tracks on this album depending on your taste. Good Thing may not be perfect, but it is incredibly exciting in demonstrating how many directions Bridges could go in and still produce a great album.