Spotify Listen Link: Charlie Wilson – Just Charlie
We're back to a 2012 Grammy nominated artist this time around, Charlie Wilson. A well known know, but perhaps, at least to me, not well known enough music. This is his fifth studio album. It produced two singles, "You Are" (a #1 on the Urban Adult Contemporary chart), and "Life of the Party."
Focusing on "You Are," this was the track that garnered two Grammy nominations: Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song (seriously, what's the difference?). The album itself was also nominated in 2010 for Best R&B Album. So out of all of the albums that come out in a single year, this one has stood out amongst the best five or six. "My Girl Is A Dime"
kicks things off. I think I've been listening to folk and electronic for a while, because this sounds so completely out of place in my head. There's a smooth sound, even in the auto-tuned words. I'm really trying to figure out if I just heard the words "dime bag" in there... I'm going to assume no. Maybe. I mean, don't get me wrong - I get the concept of the song: bragging on a girl. But once you think you hear that, you sort of sit and listen for it again.
The Grammy nominated hit, "You Are"
is next, and it really is a very sweet song. Think first 98 degrees album sweet - this is what the Motown crooners were like. There's some oddities to the singing itself, which I blame on unnecessary effects added. If you can manage to ignore that (I can't), the song is just this incredibly nice, nearly sexy, ballad of devotion.
"I Wanna Be Your Man" features Fantasia - the long-lost American idol. Remember her? Vaguely? Okay, anyway, she's on this track, but I'm already sitting two minutes in and have yet to hear anything but Charlie's voice pumped through effects that are far too common in this genre these days. Oh! There she is, at about 2:30, giving it back and explaining that she wants to be his too. Oh girl, please come out with a good lasting song sometime soon. Did I just spend most of this paragraph talking about Fantasia? Yes, yes I did.
I need a witty set of works to replace the "rhythm & blues" in "R&B" to something relating to sex and love. That's all the albums are about, without going much deeper. Ah damn, that was probably the wrong thing to say. So, "Never Got Enough" is wanted the girl back this time. Sounds like we dropped some of the auto-tune this time, thank goodness, and Charlie's backed by this cool synth line throughout, almost edging on 70's style. I really dig this one actually! It's a decent dance beat mix, with a pretty sweet subject matter. Ah damn, I think I'm getting sucked in... I blame "True Blood' for that word choice.
Okay, I'll admit, I underestimated the message. "Once and Forever" as engagement/wedding tones throughout, definitely making it more than just about the physical aspect. This one's got true, good love to it. If I liked it more, I would probably consider it for a wedding list, but the one I'm compiling right now (for my best friend, mind you) just doesn't call for a smooth R&B song. This could work for other people though - a really romantic notion to play at your reception!
"Life Of The Party" starts off asking for sex - but after they have a fabulous evening out on the town. While it's not a partying song as we're used to hearing in the clubs, it's got a really nice smooth beat that's sure to keep people moving throughout. It's kind of trying to be more modern than it should, but doesn't push it too far. The parts where the beat gets too regular in lines sung are few and far between, leaving us pretty okay to enjoy the melodies given by a shockingly relaxing vocal line throughout.
I would swear this is a completely different sounding Charlie for "I Can't Let Go." He's almost rapping a little bit. His range even sounds lower to me on this one for some reason. He must really, really want this girl in his life to take it to this different place. The beat's steady and we're just along for the ride as he begs a little bit. At least it's not whiny.
"Crying For You" is apparently what he's going once stalker Charlie has backed off from the last song. It's weird, I feel like he sounds more and more like R. Kelly as this album goes on. I don't know if it's the style used or the content of the songs, but that's where my frame of reference is taking me. Wait, wait, wait - there was a line there for just a second: "I'm sleeping with your shoes." And now, I'm officially creeped out.
We're closing in on the end here. "Where Would I Be" is a thankful song, I think. I mean, it seems like he's happy with who he is now, and is appreciative of his baby for getting him there. Personally, it's always been the negative guys in my past who have changed me somehow and I guess would be the subject of "thanks." The good ones accept you for who you are - and they damn well should. Don't forget that!
"Lotto" is the last song, and we have officially crossed the threshold into mainstream hip hop. How did we manage to get to this? We started in a very classic sounding R&B album, and have switched pitches and tones by the end. Was that the point here? Was this actually a concept album on the evolution of a genre?
Added to My Playlist:
I've noticed that my final song paragraph has been tending to wrap up my thoughts on an album a bit. I guess if you want a summary of my thoughts, you could probably look there first. Otherwise, just know that I'm happy we're done and I can go to bed.
Spotify Listen Link: Canton Jones – Dominionaire
This guy is labeled as a Gospel/R&B singer and producer, born and raised in southeast Florida. Glee club in college is actually where he got most of his experience and high-level performance opportunities for the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder. He was also very involved in a mega-church, singing and performing on a regular basis and working with the youth. His first album came out in 2003 and he's been working ever since.
This album is actually a double, so lots to hear here. We'll go ahead and do some combo paragraphs so you're not daunted with more reading. :) Hey, I have to keep an audience interested somehow!
I'll preface this with the fact that I used to attend Creation Festival in PA every year when I was in my early teens. There, you could see every single genre worshiping - and that was something else, let me tell you. Try a heavy metal band praising. Whew, what an experience. What I'm getting at it that any style can adapt to a belief system and show it through their music, so this could be awesome - or at least interesting.
"Already Gone" is immediately fast in the rap and high in the auto-tune. This does not bode well for my personal enjoyment, but we'll give it a shot nonetheless. It's just hard to keep track of words in cases like this, or really even want to. He sings a little more understandable for "Big," showing that a style of song you'd hear while people are grinding on a dance floor can just as easily be used in praise. The vocals change their sound a little for one verse, which makes me think there's got to be other rappers and/or singers featured throughout this, but I'm not seeing the credits. *shrug*
I know what this voice reminds me of - R. Kelly. Just the tones and ranges used sound like him. Anywhos, "Window" is sort of confusing lyrically at first - what window is over their head? From what I can gather, it's more about freedom or goodness coming after the bad. After all, "it's pouring out blessings." Or maybe it's about getting blessings constantly, because they're beating you over the head or something at one point. These are the moments it was good to see these artists live, because they usually gave explanations that helped out tremendously with understanding these songs.
Take the next one: "G.O.D." Not sure why the periods are necessary, implying that each letter stands for something. Now I'm spending the entire song, which sounds like a pretty decent praise song, trying to figure out what G.O.D. stands for.
Hahahaha. "They dun let them Christians in da club, oh my God." Seriously - that's the opening chorus of "In Da Club." How can you not help but laugh at that? It's an interesting take on a club song, don't get me wrong. I love the sentiment, but I can't take it seriously enough to preach about it. It just sounds so funny in song. On a more serious note, with a really nice musical arrangement, we get the next song "Worshipper - Urban Mix." Mix-wise, I really like it. I will say, I've never loved the Christian music that talks about being in love with God. It's just an intensity factor that turns me off of the idea. I'm not making a statement one way or another her religiously, it's just not in line with my tastes of praise music.
That one flows right into "You Have My Heart" so seamlessly. I thought it was just the same song, until the melody changed just slightly enough for me to click over and check. It's in the same vein as the last song subject-wise, but serves as more of a toned-back interlude, almost reminiscent of the church book songs that repeated with a slow verse of praise.
"Necessary" has J Fortune (or something) at last identify himself at the start, as the hype man so far as I can tell. The song's subject is about the necessity of praise above all else. This is where the gospel aspect of his music comes in full-on, instead of just being about the religious aspect. There's a whole dang choir in the background (something about cursing on this post just seems from). He also references Mary Mary - I don't know if the female vocals in there are associated, but nice throwback. Speaking of throwbacks, we're heading down the bayou with "That Devil," an upbeat attack song on the evil devil. We've got a horn section, traveling with him on his search down the river to defeat evil. It's actually a really interesting and different vibe for the album.
I have to say that "Beautiful" is a love song to a girl - it just has to be. Otherwise, we're going South Park with these religious songs (see the episode where Cartmen starts a religious group and replaces pop song lyrics with Jesus). It's actually a sweet sentiment for a love song. I mean, when's the last time an R&B song just kept is simple like this, relying on such a basic, but huge, compliment? At least without some other motive.
Someone please turn on "All About The Kingdom" and tell me they're hearing what I am. This one's here to laud a girl who's devoted to God, which is awesome when you're looking for that. But the sound itself.. I don't know. some of these songs just sound like parodies of themselves. It continues on into "When I Ride." I know they're being serious about the subjects at hand, but the stereotyped sounds in there are just SO heavy and hard to hear. Music aside, the words are tough to hear in this one as he trails downward on the end of every single line - it gets old.
"On the Run" is sort of interesting. There's talks about friendship and bettering the world. I mean, I guess the best word to sum it up is "nobel." Everything he talks on is good and heartfelt. What doesn't make much sense is the title tying into those concepts. I guess he's running to something (goals of world peace and whatnot), not away, but the phrase doesn't fit in that case either. I have to say, I'm having the same issue with "I'm Fly." That phrase is self-promoting, but it sounds like a love song. They even sing "I believe I can fly," sounding like hope for the future. My guess on this one is that he's more fly with God's help and God's help only.
In the next track, we get the harder, more ghetto rapper, straight off the streets. "I Am." Kanye? Is that you? Probably not, but it does sound like it. I get this one though - I Am is another term for God, so it does make sense in context, promise. Almost laughed with the ad lib singing out though. Favorite line: "he sort of like an iPad and I'm just a Kindle." It continues on into "He Reigns," which uses the drum cymbals more than a marching band. This is back to the Gospel feel from before, complete with backing choir. I think I may have mentioned in another post on another Grammy Gospel nominee that I was in a gospel choir in college for a semester. This sounds right up our alley, provided we could ever get a decent rapper.
"Be Healed" is probably more along our lines from back in the day. it's sung, not rapped, and it's much of the story and praise for the crucifixion. Basically, if you can sing on the wind about Jesus' name and your belief of his glory, you've got a song Chadasha was proud to sing. In the same performance vein, "Mother's Prayer" serves as an intro speech, or maybe just and interlude speech, of praise and prayer. I heard SO many of these growing up and Christian concerts. They were pretty consistent. and normally woven right into a song, as if the case here with "Hallelujah," a more intense feeling song of praise. Except for one Newsboys concert where he preached for an HOUR. Of course, they didn't have the added intense rap to wrap it all up.
Oh man, now we're getting funky. "Worship You" calls on some really... oh I can't do it. Y'all, this sounds like a seduction song. I get it - the meaning is really in the lyrics. But when you pick this sort of sound to go with those lyrics, what do you expect? This is the sound you chose to make - live with my small-minded criticism. "I Believe In Love" picks the pace back up, but I have to say I've pretty much tuned out by now. This happens from time to time. At least there's a slight 80's synth keeping some beat in the background. That's a somewhat redeeming quality.
"Worshipper - Pop Mix" is the final song. I have to say, this would make an incredible pop song for the radio if it weren't about being a worshipper of God (oh, come on, you know that's not going to play on mainstream). The music in this is really great for a pop song, and the melodies are fantastically crafted against it. It's just a lovely number to end on.
Added to My Playlist:
I'm going to hell for this review, moreso for the thoughts and laughter I held back than what was actually written. Like I said, I'm not going to go religious on anyone here - I believe in God and let's leave it at that. There's just too much on this album that goes too far into the respective genres attempted, and when you couple that with the religious aspect, the whole thing gets a little funny sometimes. But I mean... the videos were sort of cool, right?
No lie, I really just want to know what the big deal here was. I like Rihanna a lot, but I never saw her as someone capable of making a great complete album.
The Grammy nominations from this album included:
I do really like Rihanna as a person for her uniqueness she brings to R&B. Her voice alone is something we just haven't heard before, thanks Barbados. It's got a completely different sound in inflections alone, giving more different tones and phrases to her music that effect what we hear in the end. For that, I think, I enjoy what she's got to offer.Her previous albums had a darkness to them, whereas this is much more pop and up-tempo for the clubs and party girls in all of us. It reaches back to her earlier styles, but in a new and more mature way that allows her to grow as an artist.If you want to follow along, here's the complete album link from Spotify.Speaking of that more mature sound, we kick things off right away with "S&M." I have a few friends who loved the sound of the song, and didn't realize the subject matter until a few listens later and were, quite frankly, shocked. There's also a remix of this done with Britney Spears that's worth checking out - it's actually what I'd prefer to the original. Regardless though, here's the single's released video:
- Album of the Year
- Best Pop Vocal Album
- Best Rap/Sung Collaboration - "What's My Name?"
It's a great kick off to an album musically - it pulls you in and gets you moving immediately. I think what makes this ultimately appealing is how light and sweet the verses sound until she launches into a harder chorus. The thing that I'm stuck on is that I don't get if this is her letting herself out there of if it's just a fun song that she probably had a blast performing. I mean, I guess we're all supposed to let our freak flag fly from time to time, right? And if you were curious, there is a sample in there from Depesche Mode's "Master and Servant." I mean, obviously that's what everyone was curious about most.
The one song to be nominated by itself is the second track on the album, featuring Drake, "What's My Name?" I found this particularly annoying for the longest time, and still don't expect it to be a favorite off the album. I think it has been the melody I haven't been able to stand for this long, but maybe the song just doesn't hit well with me.
Admittedly, the relationship in the video is really cute. It's annoying to me when I liked the rapper more than the choruses from the singer. The "na na na" parts are what drive me up the wall I think. Another cool note from the video though - there are little moments when we focus in on a percussionists on the street, not necessarily playing, but who contributed somehow to the song, and we see a little later around what I can only descrive as a red hot fire. I like that they tried to show the regular relationship alongside the party atmosphere of the music. It's not a bad track to sit through this once.
"Cheers (Drink To That)" came on one night in my car when I was driving home, and it was my first experience with it. Immediately, I recognized the lines from Avril LaVigne's "I'm With You," a song I remember singing out with my best friend in 8th grade, as we were angsty wonderful punk kids. :) Now, with this new song, I think I'll be singing it with my roommate as we head out this weekend on the town.
This is that interesting voice I was talking about at the start of the blog. That accent brings a very unique sound to the whole thing. And I think I've accepted by now that the bad girl side of her isn't just a publicity act - she's just young and fun. I think I'm accepting that because I totally want to party with Rihanna and her crew, lol. Seriously though, there's something infectious about this song for us 20-somethings. You're not being cheesy enjoying it, just acting your age.
"Fading" is the first non-single release we've come across on this one, so a fresh song will be awesome to experience. Remember that Lonely Island song she guested in? That's what this sounds like to me, just melodically though. It's a relatively short number with a simple beat and about letting go. It's a nice little interlude sort of. Enya is actually sampled in this one, with her song "One by One."
Back into the charters now, we have "Only Girl (In The World)," probably one of my favorite club indulgent songs.
Seriously - what girl wouldn't want what she wants here? I mean... yeah. A guy to be that completely into you.. okay, I'll think more on that when i'm not typing something for the public. But trust me boys, see how happy she is? Follow instructions. Ahem. Uh, so, the music. The beat's pretty great, and it perfect for a dance floor without getting into some insane remix.
The next song is probably my favorite from the album. I stumbled upon this one on the radio late one night as well (clearly I don't follow Rihanna's career and new releases closely enough), and I think I started crying. Partially, it was the music itself. There's a gentle, yet rock, feel to the song. And it's slightly heartbreaking just by her vocals alone.
So this was my first experience with the video for a song I think I've listened to about 100+ times. It still evokes some kind of emotion, which is saying a lot, unless I've just been stuck in this thought that long. Anywhos. The colors and aesthetics as a whole are so incredibly beautiful, and compliment the music perfectly. The song is so sad though. There's a wedge being driven between them and no one can truly figure out why. She just wants the confirmation that he loves her, right?
Funny thing here is, I don't remember "Man Down" as a single, but it was in early May of last year! It's a pretty interesting sounding sound compared to the rest, with a definite island beat and reggae feel unlike any other song on the album.
And whoa. She actually shoots a man at the start. I didn't actually see that coming, even after hearing the song. Really cool that she went with a story for the song, but even more-so for the video. I thought it was about breaking a heart, but this video brings it to a different place. I still don't love the song as a whole to hear continuously, but it's definitely the most interesting thing off of this album in its own way.
Oh Nicki Minaj.. just when I thought I had escaped you, you show up again. "Raining Men" takes that interesting club beat each seem to employ in dragged the BPM upward a little bit. I thought maybe this was a cover, but no luck. Granted, the two work together very well. "Fly" is a great song, even with Nicki's raps. They sound good together, but the song just isn't fun after a while. There's no real dynamics to it to keep us interested, and I gradually just wanted the beats to be done.
"Complicated" grabbed me from the start. She sings it out so loud and frustrated, but in a lovely way. The back beat is simple and moving. It's actually been described as sort of trance, which makes some sense. There's even some sort of Asian theme/feel about it that's really cool. I don't think we're supposed to know why, but this is a great song in some incredibly strange entrancing way.
Like I said, there's a bedroom song on every album (maybe more than one). "Skin" fits the bill on this one. She apparently performs a lap dance on stage to an audience member for this one. Clearly, we know where this is going. I have to hand it to her, the sensuality is intense in this one, but completely appropriately done given the lyrics and circumstances.
I waited for a while for Spotify to allow me to listen to "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)" and finally they have. This song is just so great. It takes the listener to a more intense viewpoint of the girl from the first part, released on Eminem's album, Recovery. It was actually Eminem's idea, and Rihanna had to be convinced because there was no way, in her eyes, they could out-do the first. This version is so much more broken down though, and Skylar Grey did a good portion of the writing, giving the melody a haunting and beautiful feel. There's the same emotionality, if not more, to this version, and it's just... ah. "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts." You know you've dealt with the abuse for love. It's just so much. It's not a song you want to be relating to in anything more than retrospect, but in that respect, man do you want to sing it loud...
Added to My Playlist:
- "Cheers (Drink To That)"
- "California King Bed"
- "Long The Way You Lie (Part II)"
All right, I see how this was maybe deserving of the nods it received now. Rihanna did manage to compile an album with variety, soul, and fun - three elements that are hard to put together into one disc. It's got a little something for everyone, from the partiers to the over-thoughtful crazies like me! There's beauty musically, as well as lyrically from time to time, and we're presented with a full range of feelings and stories. Well done as a whole.
Honestly, not something I ever expected to review, but that's the fun in this, right? This year, he's nominated for: Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Radio Message" and Best R&B Album. After everything, he's still making music and pushing forward with a career. This is his 11th album, and considering a lot of artists never even make it to 3 or 4, that's impressive.
This album is actually supposed to be quite different from his previous ones, filled with more soul and classic influences (hence to Ray throwback cover?). He's channelling everyone from Ray Charles, to Michael Jackson, to Stevie Wonder, so let's see what we've got going on here.
In true stylish R. Kelly style, we kick off with "Love Letter Prelude," a simple a cappella message to the ladies to one and all, no matter how he's crossed paths with them.
Then we get into the actual song, "Love Letter." Aside from those little improved la-la-las at the beginning, the songs's actually got a pretty decent beat and harp sound harking a little throughout it. It's actually a pretty cute song, reaching out and trying to get her. There's a definite old-school influence to the music, including the brass section.
"Number One Hit" sounds like a 90's throwback a little bit, just with that weird little guitar floating sound. You can tell, however, that he is making that effort to make things less about sex and more about love. The album has already been more tolerable to listen to than previous ones, just because you don't feel dirty after one song. He's got a really nice voice, so this is a good change.
Oh we most definitely have a Michael inspiration going on for "Not Feelin' The Love." This is probably where I'm going to get told that I don't "know" classic R&B well enough to have an opinion, but regardless, I know what I like, and this was never it. I have respect for the song - it's got some really good rhythms and uses of instruments there, but this is not a style that hits well with me. I know, I wouldn't have done well in the 80's.
"Lost In Love" has some of those Ray influences, just a little, with the use of vocals, and even some piano that carries the song as a whole. It gets less noticeable as the song goes on, but it's there. There's something much more calm about this track than the others, though the whispered words about halfway through make you roll your eyes. Just keep signing man - you don't keep the weird seductive techniques.
Ah, you didn't think he could avoid sexual songs for an entire album, did you? As cool as the throwback styles are, R's got to be R, as he shows in "Just Can't Get Enough." It's okay man, I won't fault you for it. He goes about it in a sort of sweet way, at least musically.
"Taxi Cab" comes in with this cool bongo beat and a guitar line that screams of the city. And then this like... piano part comes in? Whew, musically, I am loving this song completely. It's different in each section, but is so fantastic. Now, lyrically, there's something to be desired. I would rather hear this as an instrumental number.
Here's the video for "Radio Message":
I have always had a problem watching R. Kelly sing. He just always seems tortured, no matter what it is he's singing about or who he's singing to. It's just difficult. So, I guess that feeling, combined with the crying out nature of this song, makes me not totally enjoy it.
We're following that right up with the video for "When A Woman Loves."
It's a very classy black and white video, and I chose to not watch most of it so I wouldn't be down on watching his singing. It's a great song and he's brought a lot of power to it.
"Love Is" sounds just like something right out of the 60's, and features K. Michelle. It's freaking adorable. Seriously, I haven't heard something like this in quite some time. It's fun and upbeat, and the lyrics stay so clean, I can't believe this is who I'm listening to. Really an impressive attempt by him to do something completely different.
There's definitely this unique melding of styles for "Just Like That." Stick with what I'm personally hearing here - it's like a song produced in the 90s, but with elements of Michael Jackson's early work, and some 70's disco influence. And there's a horns section. Yup, this song is unique.
"Music Must Be A Lady" is one of those that you want to like right from the title. It swells with this classic orchestra sound at the beginning. Then you get this very soulful pouring out of voice for the song itself. There's just a little bit of weird autotune on the background "ohs" from time to time. It kind of drags, but it's almost appropriate to his purposes.
We get, essentially, the same song, but with Christmas themed lyrics for "A Love Letter Christmas." I like that he put a Christmas spin on the whole thing - even upping the brass section a little bit to fit the season. Really nicely done. Oh, and there's this cute rap and dance break toward the end. Nice Christmas party music.
"How Do I Tell Her?" is another one that I really like musically. I don't enjoy his singing entirely o this one, because he does this weird staccato thing and drops off at the end of a whole bunch of words. This is a truly tortured song, because how do you go about breaking someone's heart?
And finally, we have "Bonus Track." Seriously, that's the name of it. And it's a cover of a Michael Jackson song, actually, one of my favorites! "You Are Not Alone." Yes, the one from Free Willy. Shut it. I love this song. R. Kelly takes up the beat a little more, and his voice is just different enough to be noticeable from Michael's, but he does a great job.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:
So, it was bearable. Seriously, he's got a great voice, and most of the songs were really nicely done. I think it was a great idea to go in a different direction with this album. It reminds people of why they used to like R. Kelly, and may keep more around for a longer time.
If you're interested, here's the full album listening link on Spotify. And as always, let me know your thoughts!
Today we kick things off with a gentleman who's nominated for Best R&B Album at this year's awards. And for some reason, I can't get Michael Jackson out of my head while listening or watching him.
He described this album as, quite literally, his second chance. He moved out to Hollywood from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and found himself just as hungry for a career as ever. He had been a distinctive voice with his family's group, DeBarge, in the 80s, and then had a great solo career in the early 90s, with his last release having been in 1994.
Then, after many bouts with the law and being given probation more times than I have ever heard of, he was incarcerated for two years for possession of crack and drug paraphernalia in 2008.
During that "depressing, very aggravating" time behind bars, he found himself completely unable to sing or write, and spent days praying and waiting for release. Naturally then, there was a lot pent up at the end, and this album provides his story of redemption.
Here's a little video to get us started, with his thoughts on recording. It boasts of two nominations, but I'm only seeing one on Grammy's site. *shrug* Maybe that was before the re-structuring.
We've got the intro done. Track-by-track time!
The first song features one of my favorite ladies of R&B, Faith Evans. Here's the pretty simple studio-based video for "Lay With You."
It's a pretty song with a nice beat, though I'm not sure how it works as an opening track to an album as a whole. Especially given that this album is meant to be his spiritual return to music and his new life. Call me crazy, but I don't see how talking about being with a girl screams that. And also... I see where I'm going to have a problem with this album - I can't totally tell the difference between his and Faith's voices.
"Heaven" feels like a much more modern song than I expected to hear at the beginning. He's got that falsetto thing going on though, and I think I've been transported back to the 80s. I get it - do what you know, and this is where he excelled back in the day. I swear I've heard this before though, but in a different song.
I have yet to hear much other than love/sex songs on this one, including the next track "Close To You." I think I've heard a parody of songs like these by my friends as NSP. I get it, you want the girl. She's soft and great and should melt for you. If you're just getting out of jail for two years and after being alone, yeah, you're probably looking for some loving. But don't tell me you're looking at this as God's gift to you with redemption then sing about this. Share your inspiration in other ways.
Oh 50 Cent! "Format" kicks off with a 50 appearance. And it's more about the girl. And.. no. God... no. There's autotune at work here, I swear. -_- It's slight, but the chorus is showing it. And for a guy that's been singing for 30+ years, I'm not sure how totally comfortable I am with his venture into more youthful lyrics, topics, or styles.
"When I See You" gives me hope for meaning with the guitar in the beginning alone, but you know it's going to be the same thing again. At least this time, it's hurt instead of love. Sorry y'all, I promise I'm starting to accept this as a regular R&B album and not the inspirational work I thought we were in for based on the description. Anywhos, this track as got this very simple salsa-ish beat to it, with a pretty guitar, but the strings and notes over it overpower what could be a very nice number. Over-produced.
Bringing in some nice piano, but still over-producing with those strings, is the next track, "How Can You Love Me." The falsetto is getting to me here. It's coming across as whiney instead of lovely. Okay, 10 more tracks to go.
"Serenading" at least has a really nice R&B beat, and holds back on the falsetto. It's more... we'll use romantic for the kids' sake. If he's looking to seduce the girl, this is probably more along the lines he wants to go in, instead of the previously mentioned numbers. A little more trashy, yet musically, a little more classy.
Um, love, "5 Seconds" should not be enough time to impress the girl. Fabolous is a guest artist on this one, but it doesn't enhance the track. I'm not just speaking from the subject matter at this point; it's just not well put-together and leaves a person going "ok......"
"Joyful" just as a cute kind of sound to it. The chorus actually has a choir sound to it - just the way the notes fall. It's a very simple, typical sounding melody, almost kid-like. Yet, there's some good adult sounds to the overall piece because of the voices. There may be hope here yet? I don't know. I'm just more okay with this than I have been most of the others.
The next song is back in the same vein as the others, but it seems a little more lovey and sweet, almost more toned down. "Sexy Lady," which... damn it. Okay, maybe I take back what I just said once we get to the second verse. He was easing into it I guess. But at least this one has a nice R&B real feel to it, and isn't overdone and horrible.
"Sad Songs" is basically what you'd expect, given this title. It lends itself to pretty great lyrics though, since he took that metaphorical nature of music and mind-workings together and created so pretty good imagery. "And the melody that I tend to play started when you left, in the key of loneliness."
Following this we have "The Other Side," which is probably the slowest, saddest sounding song on the album thus far. His voice doesn't totally reflect the pain that the music itself is trying to though. There's computerized synth sounds as the backbone to it, and it's just too much like a lullaby for too long to keep me interested. Then, about 2/3 of the way it, he gets this froggy sound to his falsetto that just buries it.
Finally, we get to the title track, "Second Chance."
Even this, which is supposed to be his renewal anthem, as love tones to it. Okay, okay. I accept it. Happy now? But this one at least has more to it in a way that could be construed as a song to his audience, not just to the girl.
Do I hear a little classical guitar coming in here? Ah, well, this is a new angle. "Silent Night," and yes, the Christmas song one. It's not labeled as a bonus track or anything on Spotify. Wow, wild to hear this on a regularly released album. This song lends itself well to his voice, though the drums that come in later are not entirely settling. It's a very nice adaptation though.
"Christmas Without You" has this great classic R&B feeling to it for holiday songs (God I hope someone out there knows what I'm talking about...). It's not exactly a Christmas standard, but it's got a good rhythm without being overwhelming, yet remaining heartfelt.
Finally, the last song is "Heart Full Of Love." This is probably another holiday-season song. It's not quite as enjoyable as the others, and I feel like a rather weak ending to an album. Too much echo. Just not feeling it at all.
So that's it.
Notice there's no Stuff I wouldn't mind hearing again section today? Yeah, I'm real sorry El, but I just wouldn't listen to any of this on a regular basis. It's just not that enjoyable of an album unless you're maybe in seduction mode. Otherwise, it's a lot of R&B songs that would have probably been more enjoyed in the early 90s with your other work.
Is there a place for this kind of music anymore? Maybe for the fans from earlier on that always cared, but not for mainstream or even avid music listeners today. I don't think it fits. I could even go out on a limb and say that I think the Grammy nod was a gift for a comeback, not a reward for a wonderful album. But hey, maybe that's just me.
Well folks, we are officially embarking on Grammy time of year! I'm going to make every effort to listen to and review as many nominated artists and albums as I possibly can. If I have enough time, there are many, many entries coming your way.
This first one of his five studio albums is nominated for one award, Best Traditional R&B Performance, for the song "Sometimes I Cry." He's been up for four rewards in the past, but has yet to win.
I've personally never heard of this guy, so here's a little intro video to the album for those of you in the same boat. It's pretty cool to hear him happy and confident about this work.
"Never Want To Live Without You" starts everything off, and this is a very old-school sounding, relaxing track. Yes, his voice is very R&B, and the music has a slight Boyz II Men sound, yet there's a little classier feel than I was expecting from a modern album in this category. It's just a sweet song of love for someone. There's almost even a smooth Jazz quality in a way. It does drag on for a little while, and some additional lyrics would be nice, but it's not bad. Here's the story set to a video:
One of my favorite old school soul girls, Faith Evans, comes on board for "Feel Good" and it's nice to hear her again. This song's a little more upbeat with more fun instrumentation backing it. You could totally dance around to this and enjoy the night at some fun little night club (but not the trashy ones in AC). You can feel the studio energy as they work through it.
"Sometimes I Cry" is actually the song that is nominated for a Grammy this year. It's got a very D'Angelo feel to it actually, and is slow moving with that higher-pitched soulful voice. It's about a guy getting over a girl, and he actually has someone else now, but it's just not the same. I'm not a huge fan of the falsetto we're hearing here throughout the entire song. Here's the video for the track:
It's a little tough watching him actually "cry."
"Always A Reason" completely made me think Diana Ross at first listen. We're digging back into soul when it was in a smoky lounge. It's actually a very optimistic song of knowing there's something to come, and there's always a reason for everything that happens, good and bad. Again, a little too much falsetto for my enjoyment - let's just hear that sweet natural voice buddy.
Eddie Levert joins in for "Paid" and we're bringing the beat back up. Actually, if I didn't know better, I'd say The Roots jumped on in to back this. Eddie helps with this scratchier voice that feels a little out of place, but it sounds like the two of them work well together. It's a good song about real people.
Another duet, Chrisette Michele comes on for "Take It," which I'd venture to say is a little more mastered than the other tracks we've heard so far. There's a few musical qualities that feel like they've come directly from a GarageBand loop. It's a give-and-take relationship song; probably the most sexual song we've heard so far. She knows what she wants though, and he's convinced he can deliver.
"Stir It Up" brings in more synth than I think we've been hearing, and while I don't like how this fits into the album as a whole, I appreciate the usage in changing things up a little bit - it's good for the song itself. Lyrically, it's, again, a good attempt at something, but seems kind of cheesy.
India Benet comes of for "Summer Love," which I'm convinced has to be this adorable song, but maybe I'm jaded by Greese. It is a nice story about their past though, and it's smooth. We're still hearing a steady beat, as each of his songs have demonstrated. As I listen more, I keep thinking computerized loops more and more, and less authentic than the start.
"Lost In Time" has that Diana Ross feel again, if for nothing more than the opening bells and beats. He's trying to make the most of life and move on, and you can feel that in his voice. If nothing else, I have to had it to Eric, you feel what he's singing, so long as he doesn't go up an octave or two too high. Here, for example, he's determined, but whimsical.
Ledisi is on with Eric next, bringing up to fun with "Good Life." I'm actually tapping my toe to this one and would love to hear this in a disco. Holy cow, that's what half of this album is reminding me of - disco! Dude, let's dance!
I know, dude is totally not fitting with this review. I can't stop being me though.
"Something's Wrong" starts and I can barely understand what he's saying. It's just a little too quiet and flowy. It's supposed to be a statement on seeing things wrong and not really knowing what, but I think we're missing the determination I was enjoying in previous songs. The feeling's just not all there this time.
I laughed seeing "Trippin'" on the list, because up until now I think we've kept a pretty classy vibe to the entire album. This is much more modern R&B than a lot of what's been going on. Again though, he's voice is a little too airy to really enjoy nearly as much as we had been. It's a good relaxing song, but I can't feel much from it.
"I might" (and no, I didn't mess up the capitalization - it's on the album that way) is cute and has a nice beat. I'm convinced of computer production on this one though - there is no drummer sitting there giving us something to rock to. This is a voice layered onto pre-done tracks.
Finally, we have "Better And Better," and I think at this point I've lost as much interest - so sorry to the fans. He's get a great voice and most of the arrangements have been really good, but what I loved the most about the beginning tracks were how much he was giving us emotionally, and it's gotten lost in the remaining ones.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:
Yeah, I know it's only one song. On one hand, I'd say hey, this isn't really my kind of music. On the other though, I think too much was over-produced. Even the songs I kind of liked more than others drug on or just weren't grabbing enough to want to hear over and over.
It's a good album for this genre though, don't get me wrong. It's new enough to stay interesting to listeners, and he's relatively young and fresh. There are 14 tracks though, and it's hard to listen to something that sounds like so many loops were used and still want to hear more. The throwback sounds were great though, and he has a really nice voice for soul. It was an album to experience, and really clearly carefully mixed with the dropped-in loops.