85% Proof is the sixth studio album by English recording artist Will Young. It was released by Island Records on 25 May 2015 in United Kingdom. It is Young's first album since signing a new recording contract with Island Records in 2012, and his first studio album since Echoes in 2011. Inspired by experiences in the time between 2011 and 2014, 85% Proof is about difficulties in Young's life: accept himself, forget sadness and live happily. The themes of songs is opposite; while some are light, the others are dark. The album is produced by Jim Eliot, who has worked with him in the previous album, and Mimi Stilwell of Kish Mauve band, whom Young always works with. The writing process for the album lasted for only 10 days, and the first songs were accepted by the chief executive of the record company.
85% Proof debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with total sales of 21,321 copies in its first week, becoming Young's fourth number-one studio album. In Scotland, the album debuted at number two on the Scottish Albums Chart. Upon its release, 85% Proof received mostly positive reviews from music critics.
Two songs have been released from the album. "Love Revolution", the first single from the album, premiered on national radio on 27 March 2015. The music video for the second song, "Like a River", was released on Young's official Vevo channel and on his Twitter account on 20 April 2015. "Thank You" was released as the third single on 24 July 2015. A 22-date tour called "Love Revolution Tour" will start on 29 October 2015 to support the album. 85% Proof was re-released on 20 November 2015 and includes the single "What the World Needs Now Is Love".
In 2011, Young released Echoes, which was a commercial success and became his third number-one album on the UK Albums Chart. Since then, he spent time on stages in the West End, received a nomination of Oliver award for his role in Cabaret, and has been teaching music in his old school in Birmingham, wrote for the Huffington Post, and also did activities for LGBT rights. During that time, he had studied somatics, "which is about bodily energy", as he told to The Guardian in an interview:"Human psychology and behaviour is fascinating, because the more I learn about myself the more I learn about other people. You understand things when you understand them. It makes me a better person, adult, boyfriend, son, everything".
From the beginning of his career to Echoes, Young had recorded five albums under the recording contract with Sony. While taking part in the film Cabaret in London in 2012, he met Universal and Island chief executive, David Joseph and Darcus Breese and left Sony, signed a new record deal with Island Records. "It was time for a change, nothing more. I’d seen out the whole deal – the whole six album deal with Sony – which I’m really proud of", he said with Rob Copsey of the Official Charts Company, " I’ve also changed management from 19 which is a big deal after 15 years, and thankfully they’re just brilliant. It was time for a shake-up." but also added that he was very sad to leave his old team. The new record company let him have a time to do another works before getting back to write or sing.
In an interview with The Guardian, Young said that he got the idea for the album at the time between the previous album Echoes (2011) and this album, and stated that "It was about mindfulness" since he had to do a lot of work on his own, and had learnt ways to understand the body. The new music will not be influenced by the music on the charts, as he told with Daily and Sunday Express. Young said that the album's title refers to the alcoholic strength of moonshine, which is difficult to determine: "I thought it was interesting that with listening to music, I don't know how good something is [until I try it], so it's like a fermentation process. It has to be tasted to be able to tell." Also, he noticed that he didn't have a clear idea about the album like the previous, Echoes, "I don't over think it. I just do what's happening that day." Hence, many different songs came out and Young just picked up which he loved for the record.
According to Young, 85% Proof "is largely upbeat" and concentrated on making audience happy with songs like "Brave Men", "Love Revolution" and "Joy"."This album is all about shrugging off unhappiness and accepting what I am", he said. The latest song from the album, "Like a River", is about the battle with his demons inside. Memories of the days being bullied at prep school has inspired him to write the song. When talking to The Independent on the radio, Young highlighted its "beauty": " 'You need to go, I need to let you go'. It was really empowering."
In an interview with UTV, Young stated that the recording process is still a thrill for him, but "It’s the most exciting thing," and "That’s kind of why I take breaks from it, because if I was doing it the whole time, it wouldn’t mean so much." Also, he unveiled that he had completed the writing for the album in only 10 days without any sample, with Kish Mauve and his band, whom he did the last record with and are "good friends"; and the first three songs were immediately accepted by chief executive of Island Records, Darcus, after being sent to him.
On Good Morning Britain, Young announced that he was recording his sixth studio album. On 25 March 2015, he announced the title and revealed the artwork of the new album on his Instagram page, having set up the account on the same day. The track listing was revealed on 30 March 2015.
The album's release was preceded by the single "Love Revolution", which had its UK radio premiere on 27 March 2015. Another track, "Like A River", was also available before the album's release, along with an accompanying video. The video was released on 20 April 2015, through Young's official YouTube channel. Young also tweeted on his Twitter account about the video's concept. On 16 June 2015, video for "Thank You" and the remix of French DJ and producer Fred Falke are released on YouTube and SoundCloud. The music video was filmed at Porchester Baths in London and directed by Nick Barleet. Young also announced that the song will be released on 24 July as the latest single from the album.
On 2 June 2015, it was announced that Young was embarking on his first tour in four years in order to promote for 85% Proof, Love Revolution Tour. The tour will begin on 29 October 2015, with the first stop is York, last for 22 days and will end on 29 November in London. Will Young announces 'Love Revolution' UK Tour
The Guardian gave the album three stars out of five and described the closing track "I Don't Need a Lover" as "This one is a piano ballad dominated by a vocal performance of silvery regret and loss. It’s a reminder of how good Young can be (and how much he has influenced Sam Smith)." Clashmusic.com also focused on the final track within their 7 out of 10 review, describing it as "The album's finest moment, 'I Don't Need A Lover', concludes proceedings with a minimal backdrop to accompany Young's emotive falsetto built around a piano and some relatively reserved strings. It's quite sincerely breathtaking and a reminder that no matter who the artist or the genre, a well-written song paired with a striking voice is all it takes to capture the listener's ear."
The album peaked at number 1 on the UK Albums Chart after selling 21,321 copies on its first week, marking Young's fourth studio album to top the UK charts. On the Scottish Albums Chart, the album made its chart entry at number 2. By the end of 2016 the album had sold 87,000 copies.
Sample credits"Love Revolution" incorporates elements of "Loneliness" written by Ivan Matias, Robert Borrmann, Andrea Martin, and Edmund Clement.