Essex singer Sam Ryder probably counted 2022 as his best year ever, even before the arrival of this debut album. It’s not strictly his debut, actually. The 33-year-old released music as a member of bands called The Morning After, Blessed by a Broken Heart, and Close Your Eyes, in the early stages of a faltering music career. But after developing a 14 million-strong TikTok following by singing cover versions during lockdown – a feelgood musical equivalent of Joe Wicks’s perky PE sessions – and of course, giving the UK their most successful Eurovision since 1998, he still feels very much like a newcomer.
The album title comes from his Eurovision song, Space Man, which must be used to coming second when it arrives after the intro track here. It retains much of its innocent bombastic charm, sounding as though Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins of The Darkness bought a puppy together, and brings back fond memories of that moment in May when we realised there is at least one British person that the rest of Europe doesn’t dislike.
Across the album he moves on from that formula to try on a few different outfits, not all of which suit him. Put a Light On Me is moody dance pop with a forgettable electronic backdrop. All the Way Over is a showstopping piano ballad that, appropriately for the Christmas period, overeggs the pudding quite spectacularly. Whirlwind is folkier and far less exciting than its title.
It’s hard to resist the impact of his voice, however, which ranges as wide as his flawless smile and pulls off some mighty tricks. On Ten Tons he holds his own atop a hefty gospel backing. The energetic piano soul of Somebody is great fun. On Tiny Riot he employs both his rock star growl and his cloudbusting falsetto, while the music apes the pumped-up electro-rock of Imagine Dragons.
A large part of the charm comes from knowing his back story. Apparently ego-free after a long spell combining wedding singing with construction work and running a juice bar, it’s a pleasure to listen to a man who can’t believe his luck giving it all he’s got. He may look like he should be hustling punters to try trapeze yoga at a minor music festival but he needn’t worry about returning to obscurity. There’s more than enough here to keep that Eurovision glow going well into the future.