Craig David, "The Time Is Now" (RCA)
If the name Craig David sounds vaguely familiar, congratulations — you're officially old. David was the British pop prodigy who at the turn of the millennium had the infectious hits "Fill Me In" and "7 Days." Remember "Hot in Herre" by Nelly? Same year.
David is back now with a new album, which is an accomplishment in itself. That it is also an excellent album is truly remarkable in a world where the expiration date in pop music is measured in months.
David's versatility and warmth is all over "The Time Is Now," a 12-track album in which he had a hand in writing every song. He sings and he raps in everything from edgy house, Top 40 bubblegum pop, spare electronica and trop-pop.
A series of producers — including KAYTRANADA, Fraser T Smith, Steve Mac and Tre Jean-Marie — have coaxed different sides of the appealing David. You're rooting for him before the third song ends and he doesn't disappoint.
For an artist who last had a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2002, David's album is as current as anything by Camila Cabello. His "Brand New" has a "Shape of You" feel and there's sometimes a distinct Drake whiff to him, especially on "Going On" with a borrowed Jamaican patois. "I Know You" featuring Bastille is a terrifically murky club banger, while the high-tempo "Focus" will remind you of throwback to '90s house group Black Box.
This is actually David's seventh album and he's evidently not been broken by the vagaries of fame, a cold music industry or even becoming the cruel target of a sketch show in Britain. Throughout "The Time Is Now" is optimism and a willingness to seize chances.
"Let's live in the moment. When one door closes, another opens. So let's live in the moment. No point holding to what's broken," he sings on "Live in the Moment" featuring GoldLink. Another song's title says it all: "Love Will Come Around."
David, who was 19 when he first hit the charts and is now 36, has matured nicely into 2018 — "For the Gram" is a cheeky song not about coke sniffing but posting online via Instagram. ("Don't forget the hashtag," he sings.)
So 2018 is starting off nicely, with a prodigal son's return. Welcome back, Mr. David.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits