For those of you who know me and how I write someone up, you’ll know I’m not overly keen on spending half a feature chronicling how and where someone grew up, or even what they did before they got into music. Unless it has a significant bearing on the direction they’ve chosen artistically, that’s what Wikipedia is for and has nothing to do with me. By and large, anything I could say on the matter has already been said a hundred times over and if you’re that interested in what McMahon had for breakfast, there’s always Instagram or any number of other magazines out there that are too happy to say the exact same thing as one another.
While the chase-cutting begins imminently, I recognise that people will need the bare essentials, so here they are. Straight from the self-proclaimed “Real” capital of Ireland, Cork, McMahon’s been garnering support over the past year and a half from a lot of recognisable names. Support slots for the likes of Tom Jones, Imelda May, and a spot at this year’s Blended Festival in Dubai with Kasabian, Kool and the Gang, and Robin Thicke should be all the endorsement you need. In case it isn’t, airplay with Terry Wogan, Graham Norton, and Paul O’Grady might just be.
Off the back of his outstandingly successful debut album eighteen months ago, and a straight-to-the-top of the Irish iTunes chart single in the form of his debut, Deepdown, McMahon has a new release for us. He calls the EP ‘Hummingbirds and Yellow Things’ and there’s a video to accompany the lead track, Nicola.
Having listened through the full release, I can see why this is the obvious choice for a single. While I prefer Hands Tied, personally – the EP’s ultimate, darkest track, seemingly about a controlling relationship – Nicola has that commercial appeal for so many reasons.
For one, it’s upbeat; let’s face it, it generally sells a hell of a lot better than those brooding tracks with more than one facet. It’s not to say that Nicola is one of those brainless but melodic happy summer songs, but if you take it at face value and bop your head to the music, it could be. It’s one of those boy meets girl stories where the boy falls for her and just can’t work out how to get her; it’s an oldie, but a goodie, as someone over the age of 49 would say.
If I could allow myself to be cynical, the parentheses after the title could be another large motivating factor in the choice of Nicola (Mick Hucknall Mix) as the big release. I know what you might be thinking here; it’s not like he’s put in Pharrell Williams’ or Timbaland as mixers or producers or added Snoop as a featured artist to appeal to the masses or anything (not that anyone in their right mind would refuse), but the help of a big name on an up-and-coming artist’s track can and never will be a bad thing. This is all just speculation on my part and Hucknall might have become attached to the project after the choice to make Nicola the flagship in the Hummingbirds fleet. Who knows, it might not have even crept into anyone else’s head along the way; we all know how innocent and naïve management and PR tend to be.
For those of you who would seek to discredit my theory on the basis that Mick Hucknall isn’t exactly a big name these days, call me when you’ve sold 50 million albums and I’ll take that into account. Yes, Simply Red could be accused of rampant naff-ness, but I’d never indict anyone for that, particularly if said naff-ness took place during the 90s. All that aside, Mick seems to be a fan of McMahon, which would explain the attachment.
“I really like McMahon and was really happy to get involved with the production and mixing of Nicola, for no other reason than that I loved the track and think it’s a hit! I wish him every success with it.”
The video itself seems to tell the story of the track. Set in Dubai, doubtlessly during McMahon’s time at Blended in April/May, it’s a series of scenes featuring a frankly beautiful woman that puts the song well into visual context. It’s warm, it’s cheery, it’s heart-warming, and it plays well with the song’s content with the added luxury of being set in a lot of people’s idea of paradise. Although I’m not in the video criticism business, I like it more than most.
At the end of the cliché, Nicola sort of sets in stone what people already knew about McMahon. He has a lot going for him musically and it won’t be all that long before he’s one of those household names, given the calibre of the stuff he’s putting out there. It’s a hit; there’s no two ways about it.
McMahon has a busy summer ahead of him, with gigs on both sides of the Irish Sea, be it Doyle’s on College Street in Dublin on August 18th or Strawberry Fields in Leicester the week before, McMahon isn’t one to miss. Keep watching here, because I can promise you this won’t be that last you’ve heard of him.