Stormzy: This Is What I Mean track by track review

We take a look at the new album from Stormzy which sees the Grime star take a new direction.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 29th Nov 2022

Stormzy is one of the biggest names in UK music right now and has helped push Grime into the mainstream. He seems to be hitting new heights year after year and it is safe to say that he is a cultural icon. On his third album, he has compared the writing process to being like therapy and it has resulted in his most soulful album to date.

We thought we'd take a look at Stormzy's new album 'This Is What I Mean' on a track-by-track basis. Here are our thoughts.

 

Fire + Water

An 8-minute opening section is a grand opening gesture and one that immediately puts you into the vibe of the album. Stormzy's voice is reflective as the gentle piano keys ring out. It speaks of a willingness to change, to grow and recognise where you went wrong in the past in order to become better. 

There's a soothing feeling provided by the soft notes of the trumpet. The song is spilt into two parts, with the water taking over the track, with a percussive beat that feels like the snaking rhythm of water. 

 


 

This Is What I Mean

Piano keys dominate yet again at the start of this track. Stormzy finds himself backed by gospel-like vocals. It isn't long before we cut into a beat much more familiar with those who are Stormzy fans. Uncompromising, the backing vocals only seem to serve to elevate his voice to another level.

He's joined by Amaarae on the bridge, just one of a host of voices who pop up throughout the Album. He brushes aside the rappers who spend too much time on the timeline. 


 

Firebabe

Stormzy's breath has been taken away completely here as he describes being with someone as being his happy place. Moments of candid clarity like this are what set this album far apart from what he's done before. The theme of being a flame appears to be recurring throughout the album so far.

 


 

Please

One of the most unexpected lyrics here is Stormzy's defence of Meghan Markle, who quite rightly needs some reprieve from the constant scrutiny of the media. The song reads like a prayer, where he asks for the strength to forgive his dad amongst other things. It feels like an intimate glimpse into Stormzy's psyche.

 


 

Need You

Tendai takes the reigns on this track on a couple of verses that add an R&B dimension to the album. With only one verse from Stormzy, it does feel as though the track misses him a little bit. It doesn't immediately come across as a particularly memorable song either, as the instrumentals lack any kind of emotional edge.

 


 

Hide & Seek

Stormzy takes the main verses here whilst Teni, Oxlade and Ayanna make appearances throughout, as we hear from a whole cast of voices. It is a bit jarring to hear the other voices so frequently on a song that feels so personal to Stormzy but the verses are tight as usual. 

 


 

My Presidents Are Black

There are so many ways in which Stormzy intertwines both his life experiences and current social issues in this song. With references to rising from the bottom to shouting out Dave whilst calling out the Tory government for their lockdown parties. It feels like a victory lap for all the things that he's achieved in his career so far. 

 


 

Sampha's Plea

This track serves as a platform for Sampha, an incredible artist who is also a Mercury Prize winner. A fantastic songwriter, he occupies a space all on his own here as he pleads for a better future. His songs feel deeply emotional and it is the same here, his voice generates a gravity of its own.

 


 

Holy Spirit

On another track that takes a step back, he speaks of a burden of pressure whilst talking to god. His faith has been guiding him throughout this album, as a force to lean on when things get difficult and he has a lack of direction. This is the song that stresses the importance of religion throughout his life.

 


 

Bad Blood

The breakdown of a relationship dominates 'Bad Blood'. It is an outright declaration of love and the long-lasting impact it has once it's over. Stormzy is determined to emphasise that just because love was lost doesn't mean that the love was bad.

 


 

I Got My Smile Back

"Every Hendo needs a Stevie G" is a particular highlight here, as through the medium of football Stormzy highlights the importance of having a mentor. There are moments on this track that discuss mental health in regard to loneliness and depression and it's important that such an iconic figure feels the need to share that discussion around those topics is important. 

 


 

Give It To The Water

A soulful ending that sees a lot of verses being taken up by Debbie Ehirim, it focuses on moving towards the future and knowing that things will work out alright. It does feel a little bit of a shame that the closing statement only features Stormzy in one verse and the final chorus. We hear Stormzy singing fully though which is a very powerful moment. 

 


 

In summary, 'This Is What I Mean' feels like a glimpse into the mind, experiences and motivations of one of the UK's biggest talents. A far more soulful offering than anything Stormzy has done before, it is a refreshing change of pace that makes us wonder what direction he'll go in next. It may be a bit overcrowded with guest voices in some tracks but there's no doubt that Stormzy is as potent a lyricist as ever.

 



 

Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.

 

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