When Sincere was nominated for the Mercury Prize this summer -- before it was actually released -- the debut by classically trained two-step kingpin MJ Cole split listeners down the middle. Some proclaimed Cole the new Roni Size for bringing speed garage to the masses, while others simply blew off his poppy club music as double-time R&B pap.
In a sense, both rationales apply. For all its razor-sharp edits and snappy beats, Sincere's real appeal is its pure pop sensibilities and the way Cole brings raw soul to club music. Crazy Love and Rough Out Here are diva house cuts with better beats -- nothing more and nothing less. Cole roughens the edges occasionally with some dancehall attitude, but Sincere is best when it avoids idle sophistication and sounds like a guilty pleasure.