Dylan Cartlidge today shares his debut album, Hope Above Adversity, which appears three years after he first arrived in the public consciousness when he appeared in the BBC documentary, The Mighty Redcar.
The series followed people’s struggles in a town that has faced its fair share of hardship and is a forgotten part of England. He nestled himself into viewers hearts as they followed his story and how he moved to Teeside from Stoke in his mid-teens after being taken into foster care. The documentary ended with Cartlidge signing a major publishing deal, and after everything he’s been through, Hope Above Adversity does precisely as the title suggests.
Cartlidge started as a rapper, but he’s leaned further into his delectable soul voice as time has passed. On the record, these two sides of his musical personality coexist and see him carry out two people’s jobs at once.
At times, it feels like Cartlidge isn’t sure what he wants to be, and occasionally the duality of his artistry clashes as he tries to squeeze these disparate talents under one roof. ‘Molasses (Walk That Walk)’ is the finest example of the befuddled sound, and he doesn’t let his voice flourish.
The talent is there with Cartlidge, and on plenty of occasions throughout the album, he showcases his talent beautifully, which only amplify the frustrations that come with the missteps.
‘PTSD’ sees Cartlidge open up about his fragilities and get the delicate balance to perfection. It starts with an explosive rap, features stellar production which resembles Glass Animals, and Cartlidge wears his heart on his sleeve. That track epitomises the essence of the record, which is all about not letting trauma define you but instead using it as fuel for the fire.
‘Hang My Head’ is another expert moment which has ample amounts of factor. Cartlidge’s positivity is infectious across the track. His voice is stirring, and the singer has a seismic ability to cause waves of emotion.
However, the most impressive moment on the record is ‘Family’, which sees Cartlidge express his voice luxuriously while simultaneously opening up about his distressing childhood. The slick track sees Cartlidge cry, “I had my family until my family broke down”, and it’s these authentic, heartfelt moments that he truly shines.
‘Anything Could Happen’ is the poppiest track on Hope Above Adversity, and the glorious sun-kissed chorus is the perfect accompaniment for a summer afternoon. It’s filled with optimism and celebrates the endless possibilities that life is capable of offering.
On the track, he proudly sings, “I got a home, I got a home, Built up from the ground, got a home, I got a home, I got a home, I got something to call my own.”
Album closer, ‘Monsters Under The Bed’, is Cartlidge’s most left-field moment on the record as he gets spooky, yet, thanks to another powerful melodic chorus and the singer’s cultured voice, Hope Above Adversity ends with a bang.
Hope Above Adversity shows that Cartlidge is a natural talent who deserves to be taken seriously. However, he’s not quite landed on a cohesive sound on his first attempt. You get the sense that the album is a collection of songs thrown together due to its genre-spanning scope, but the hits far outweigh the odd slip-up. Cartlidge has a bright future ahead of him, and Hope Above Adversity is just the start of his journey.