85% Proof is the sixth studio album by English recording artist Will Young. It was released by Island Records on 25 May, 2015, in the 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 challenges in Young's life: accepting himself, forgetting sadness, and living happily. The themes of the songs vary; while some are light, others are dark. The album is produced by Jim Eliot, who has worked with Young on his previous album, and Mimi Stilwell of Kish Mauve band, whom Young always works with. The writing process for the album lasted only 10 days, and the first songs were approved 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.
Several singles have been released from the album. The first one, "Love Revolution", premiered on national radio on 27 March, 2015. The music video for the second single, "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. Young embarked on a 22-date tour called "Love Revolution Tour" 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 an Olivier Award nomination for his role in Cabaret, and taught music in his old school in Birmingham. He also wrote for the Huffington Post, and took part in activities in support of LGBT rights. During this time, he studied somatics, "which is about bodily energy", as he told 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 a recording contract with Sony. While taking part in the film Cabaret in London in 2012, he met the CEO of Universal Music David Joseph, and Darcus Beese of Island Records, and left Sony, signing 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 told 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."
In an interview with The Guardian, Young said that he got the idea for the record after recording his previous album Echoes (2011), 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 human body. The new music would not be influenced by the music on the charts, as he told the Daily and Sunday Express. Young stated 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 , 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 one, Echoes, "I don't overthink it. I just do what's happening that day." Hence, many different songs came out and Young just picked the ones he loved for the record.
According to Young, 85% Proof "is largely upbeat" and focused on making audiences 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 song "Like a River" is about the battle with his inner demons. Memories of the days being bullied at prep school 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, mentioning that "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 samples, with Kish Mauve and his band, whom he did the last record with and who are "good friends"; the first three songs were immediately approved by the president of Island Records, Darcus Beese, after being sent to him.
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