The pandemic was grim for most and a horror for many, but for a few it offered a unique opportunity – and a captive audience.
This is not to disparage the instant national treasures born of lockdown: they gave people something to smile about, and that’s no small service. They merit any rewards that come their way.
And so we get to Sam Ryder, your archetypal musical journeyman/nearly man, who lacked not musical facility, but a unique selling point. Until, suddenly, he had one: his sheer likeability, at a moment when that was what the nation craved the most.
It was enough to send him viral on (north of 30, he made for a geriatric presence on that platform) and garner pop royalty endorsements, not least from , who is evidently as susceptible to sincere flattery as any of us.
Space Man is a cracking song, and so is Rocket Man, its immediate ancestor musically and thematically. It even made, which takes a bit of doing lately.
Ryder’s debut album offers no surprises and takes no chances. It is clearly and carefully constructed to place him among those contemporary British stars of trad pop whom he has already supported on tour.
Its best moments are the most Elton-esque (particularly the spry cautionary tale This Time), but they are outnumbered by -style histrionics, and James Blunt-ish dramatic balladeering.
Yet Ryder has one great strength that none of those predecessors possesses: it remains impossible to dislike not only him, but his music. By this point he shouldn’t need further good luck. But you’d wish it him anyway.