Playing in the Shadows - Example

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Playing in the Shadows - Example

1 CD(s) - Dance - Label: Ministry of Sound - Distributor: Ministry of Sound/Sony DADC - Released: 05/09/2011 - 5051275043921

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84% positive

5 reviews from the community

Review of "Playing in the Shadows - Example"

published 22/09/2011 | tipsyrabbit
Member since : 17/03/2010
Reviews : 62
Members who trust : 6
About me :
Pro A mixture of sounds; some are almost ballads
Cons Those that won't appreciate the raw Britishness of his singing/rapping will not enjoy this
very helpful
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money


”Gurning rave-hop, lowering the tone and turning the charts into a week-long episode of Skins” – NME

Hey – good morning. Hey – it’s calling, I want to listen to another Example album with you. With so many stunning songs on his last album, ‘Won’t Go Quietly, including ‘Watch the Sun Come Up’ and ‘Kickstarts’, to name just two – there was going to be a lot for Example to live up to with third album.

Just as is with the case most British hip-hop artists, they have to fight their way into the mainstream. Example’s first album is utterly unknown to most, ‘What We Made’ failed to chart anywhere back in 2007. Those who have followed him since the start will likely be aggravated by those who are 4-years behind his career.

‘Won’t Go Quietly’ was one of the greatest albums of 2010 for me, and without a doubt the soundtrack to last summer. Example without a doubt specialises in summer party music, it’s what he does best, that’s why it is no surprise his return coincided with the beginning of summer.

Born as Elliot Gleave (his initials is where his stage name comes from) at 29 years of age he is very much at the peak of his career. Some may say he is even a little too old for the music he is releasing, but the highlight of his music for me has always been the infectious production rather than the lyrics. With his third album, ‘Playing in the Shadows’ has Example released a more grown up sound?
”Thinking about what I wanna say, thinking about how I wanna say it.”

  • 1, Skies Don’t Lie (4.24) – Produced by Funkagenda
  • 2, Stay Awake (3.24) – Produced by Nero

Almost every track on the album is produced by someone different, a testament to the UK music industry at current. It was just the other day that I was looking at the chart, stunned to see 9 out of the top 10 tracks were by British artists. I like when artists open an album with a track they haven’t already released to radio, to me it shows they aren’t trying to make sales from people picking up the album – seeing the tracks they recognise immediately – then filling the rest of the album with nothingness. ‘Skies Don’t Lie’ serves as a good opener, and is unmistakably Example. From the very Britishness of his voice, to the production. There is also a reference in the track to his collaboration with Wretch 32, ‘Unorthodox’.

Example has said himself that this album would see the beginning of his transition away from dance music, as he moves into a dubstep direction. It’s very difficult to pigeonhole his music, from the electronic beats to the clear grime influences. Clearly dubstep has gone from something underground, to something a lot more commercially accessible – with even Leona Lewis saying she wants to push her music in this direction. ‘Stay Awake’ is the second single to be released from the project, and is along the same vein as most of his last album.

‘Stay Awake’ is produced by Nero, an electronic dance/dubstep act who themselves topped the UK chart with ‘Promises’ in August 2011. With Example’s growing popularity, it was no wonder that this went on to top our chart also, although it is still not as good as anything he released on his last album in my opinion. In fact, lyrics such as, “Do we chase the rabbit into Wonderland?” seem pretty dire to me.
  • 3, Changed The Way You Kissed Me (3.15) – Produced by Michael Woods
  • 4, The Way (4.28) – Produced by Faithless

‘Changed’ was the first track to be released from the album, and upon first hearing it I have to admit I was disappointed. I could immediately see its commercial appeal, but it seemed a little…. Dare I say, safe and boring for Example. The opening is very much the build up for the all out craziness that commences around the 50-second mark, and it’s no surprise that radio lapped this up. What I would say is about the question I posed in the introduction to this review, has Example’s sound grown up? I don’t know about maturing, but this is a progression in his music. Faithless will be the most noticeable production credit for most of those reading, as he is hugely well known for the track, ‘Insomnia’. ‘The Way’ has some similarities for ‘Insomnia’, as Example asks for help to be shown the way home. It’s got the raw Britishness about it that you expect from Mike Skinner and The Streets, more precisely ‘Blinded by the Lights’ – but not to that kind of extreme.
”Changed the Way You Kissed Me is quite possibly a You've Lost That Loving Feeling for this century.” – BBC

  • 5, Natural Disaster (5.05) – Produced by Laidback Luke
  • 6, Never Had A Day (3.53) – Produced by Sheldrake & DC Breaks
  • 7, Microphone (4.16) – Produced by Brookes Brothers

‘Natural Disaster’ serves as the third single to be lifted from the album. It shares a lot more similarities to ‘Changed the Way You Kissed Me’ than ‘Stay Awake’. It feels a bit pityfilled for me, and the accompanying video is an example of this. ‘Never Had A Day’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album. All of Example’s tracks seem to have long introductions, but the techno beats are undeniably him. Here he sings about never having a sober day and not being able to wake up the friend on the floor. The track is a lot slower than some of his previous songs, which may put some off, but there’s something about it that feels very genuine and speaking from experience. From the sounds of it, he’s had quite the life. ‘Microphone’ continues on the slowing pace of the album, this isn’t one that’s going to get played in Ibiza, but hopefully his fan base can appreciate the variety in his sound.
”Scheming. Dreaming. Wheeling. Dealing. Feeling strange.”

  • 8, Playing in the Shadows (4.39) – Produced by Chase & Status
  • 9, Midnight Run (3.58) – Produced by Feed Me
  • 10, Under the Influence (4.55) – Produced by Skream

Chase & Status have reached a new audience this year, becoming more popular than ever, and as such a production credit on Example’s album doesn’t come as a surprise. And it comes on the albums title track, 'Playing in the Shadows'. This sounds very different to the ‘Won’t Go Quietly’ title track, and this is a prime example of his more mature sound. Even if the subject matter is still just as immature. I do find it very difficult to say anything positive about this track; there really isn’t much to say. ‘Midnight Run’ continues on the more dark sound at this part of the album, but slowly picks up to be more disco friendly. If anyone knows the relatively unknown UK act, Frankmusik, this track would not have seemed out of place on his last album. Feed Me, the producers behind the track, have worked with a whole spectrum of artists as well; from KoRn, to Muse, to Nero. ‘Under the Influence’ leads perfectly on from the last track. Thankfully, Example has away of saying things that is different from a lot of other artists and can talk about love, without even having to use the word. This is a very grown up song, with so many of Example’s songs being about partying and alcohol, its interesting to see when he writes a song about being under the influence, its actually about a woman.
”All the things you hate I find fun.”

  • 11, Wrong in the Head (3.11) – Produced by Tom Neville & Brookes Brothers
  • 12, Anything (3.31) – Produced by Dirty South
  • BONUS, Lying to Yourself (3.34) – Produced by Wez Clarke & Eddie Jenkins

Brookes Brothers are the only producers to get more than one production credit on the album, I think this is just by chance as there’s nothing overly special to say about them. Well, not in comparison to the faultless production throughout. ‘Wrong in the Head’ is the opposite of what we’ve just heard, as it’s all about doing the wrong thing and going out getting absolutely plastered in the east end of London. ‘Anything’ is the end to the standard edition of the album, and if you’ve been partying to the rest of the album this is your cooling down period. It’s a very appropriate ending still, as we see the more romantic side to Example.

If you’ve downloaded through iTunes you’ll get the bonus tracks, ‘Plastic Smile’ and ‘Shot Yourself in the Foot Again’, and remix of ‘Changed The Way You Kissed Me’. For me though it’s just the eerily beautiful ‘Lying to Yourself’. Gone are the layers of production and dupstep beats, it’s just a simple piano playing. This is the other side of ‘Anything’, as its Example blaming the girl for the relationship breaking down. “Until you stop lying to yourself, I’ll never stop lying to you. And until I stop crying to myself, I’ll never cry in front of you.” One of my favourite tracks on the album, shame it’s only a bonus.

”I wanna stay for another day, if you want to save us give me a signal, anything will do.”

From singing to rapping and back again. From happy to sad in less than 60 seconds. Example does a lot with this project, and brings a lot of friends along for the ride. Do I enjoy his music as much as I did last year? No. But I can appreciate what he is trying to do with his sound here. I’m not surprised he dominates the UK charts; I would just be interested to see if his music could ever garner any international appeal.

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Comments on this review

  • LadyValkyrie published 05/10/2011
    Not my type of music, but superb original review.
  • Praski published 26/09/2011
    I've never heard of the guy but this is a good review.
  • paulie1975 published 25/09/2011
    E from me
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1 CD(s) - Dance - Label: Ministry of Sound - Distributor: Ministry of Sound/Sony DADC - Released: 05/09/2011 - 5051275043921

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EAN: 5051275043921


Listed on Ciao since: 18/07/2011