I’ll be honest… I don’t support many mainstream R&B artists. They just don’t have much to say these days about anything beyond sex, sex, money, cars and oh… sex. Don’t get me wrong. This kind of music does have a purpose and place… Think pulsating and still twerking bodies in the flickering lights of a night club and on long car rides. Yes- the right playlist will get you down the road in a jiffy! Former American Idol winner Jordan Sparks has decided to throw her hat in the ring with a switch from a largely pop sound to one that is decidedly more R&B. If the fact that she has a song titled Boyz In the Hood doesn’t convince you, perhaps it is her crooning that her guy shouldn’t “double tap that hoe”. I actually laughed at that song and the accompanying lyrics. The promise ring wearing Jordin was a mere 17 when she joined American Idol and its safe to assume that she is looking toward a promise with a different focus and outcome.
Let’s get to the music! At 25 and with current project Right Here, Right Now, Jordin is attempting to prove that she is now grown and sexy and can R&B vixen with the best of them. Don’t get me wrong, she still has a couple of pop-like tracks for long time fans. This project however ventures into other waters. Songs like They Don’t Give remind me of the liberation of Janet Jackson via Rhythm Nation. On this track she is telling her love that we need not care about what others think- we got this.Yeah, Janet. There is also a reggae joint via Casual Love featuring Shaggy where Miss Sparks is telling her love interest that she’s not the casual lover type (Sidebar: Shaggy is a smart dude. He reminds me of Snoop hopping on the proper wagons to keep his name in the limelight). The song has just enough reggae swag to have you pointing your imaginary guns with a quick body whine. Jordin also features R&B newcomer (for some), Elijah Blake on Unhappy. Unhappy appears to be in response to her break up with Jason Derulo who claimed in interviews that he was never really happy with Jordin who saw him through a broken neck injury and beyond. You couldn’t tell he was unhappy publicly (I saw the interviews of you espousing your happiness Jason!), as even she missed the signs but apparently he was faking it. I digress. Tell Him That I Love Him takes a step deeper look into losing your mate to another. By the time this song, followed by 11:11 appear, I’m hoping she’s almost over him. Heart break is a mutha and I wasn’t in the mood. The project rounds out with 100 Years, a slow groove about a new love (yay for Sage the Gemini) and a head bobb’n It Ain’t You (which sounds like Tinashe’s 2 On AND All Hands on Deck).
12 tracks and all are worth a listen unless you’re like me and uninterested in break-up songs. I went on the ride with Jordin and while we were re-routed for a few minutes, we found our way to the main roads again. She’s got it all- dance beats, dope beats, reggae and slow grooves to help you get over your broken heart. All she’s missing is a diss record! Where’s the diss track Jordin?!! Anyway- Jordin is doing music her way and it’s refreshing. Go get this.
Tyrese’s 2015 release, Black Rose had me at liner notes, complete with vocal information, lyrics and a cover reminiscent of Marvin Gaye concert footage. I purchased the regular edition (the deluxe includes some stuff I don’t care about lol) and immediately popped It in for the ride home. Some folks (Tyrese included) have stated that he is bringing back real R&B. As a true fan of music I would say that R&B has never gone anywhere but what has changed are the faces of those being propped up by mainstream as current representation. This has been going on for years as somehow boy bands with mediocre voices replaced in popularity the voices of existing male groups like Boys II Men. But I digress (til another day my friends)… Tyrese does have a winner if you enjoy R&B music with smooth grooves and is of the sort where the singer can actually sing, without help from the studio gadgetry. Think of the rawness in The Five Heartbeats when Eddie King, Jr grabbed the mic and sang a capella during their first performance. Tyrese has the grit and ability to star in a remake for sure!
So, let’s get into music. Black Rose is comprised of 14 tracks including the stellar lead song, Shame (matching the ever powerful vocalist Jennifer Hudson who shines on bgvs), features from Chrisette Michelle (Don’t Wanna Look Back), Brandy (The Rest of Our Lives), Marsha Ambrosius (though not credited for bgvs on Picture Perfect) and his TGT homie Tank (Prior to You). I don’t know about you but I like to be wooed by music. A good beat is great (Tyrese has them) but add some appeal by giving me some poetry and intellect in the midst of your pursuit. That said, I’m not here for the ratchet, unnecessarily explicit lyrics that are highly over played by mainstream radio today. Tyrese brings us some balance. One thing that surprised me was that he had writing credit on every song. In fact, the Black Rose Tyrese reminds me NOT of the persona he displays via his social media accounts, but of the Lately, on-the-bus-singing-about-Coca-Cola-drinking-Tyrese of yesterday! I mean, I know he’s from the hood but he tricked me back in the day into thinking he was just a nice guy who liked to write lyrics and sing aloud on the bus like me! Black Rose is a love letter and this Tyrese is eloquently pursuing with words a love he has injured perhaps irreparably. This is evidenced on Leave where he croons- ‘if you ever leave, I would be helpless, you would be hopeless, like a sea without a beach, what would life mean?’ I don’t know about you, but I’d go back at least one more time!
This cd certainly deserves some major spin. You may find that it reminds you of some of the tone and angst experienced on a Marvin Gaye cd without stealing Marvin to make it happen (Cough! Robin Thicke!). Tyrese certainly has vocal chops and here he uses them well. On Without My Heart, he went so low and deep in tone that my passenger and I looked at each other and exclaimed “daaaaamn!” Other stand out tracks are- Waiting On You, I Still Do and the sensual Gonna Give You What You Want. The only expendable is the song Dumb Sh-t which began as a diss song toward comedian Spanky Hayes (google it). Minus that one song, this entire project could be played during any radio station’s “quiet storm” show. It covers the entire gamut of a relationship from good to bad to “oh crap, I might have messed up for good this time”. Overall, this project makes me forgive Ty for becoming Black Ty and later his horrid, relationship advice. But isn’t that what music is supposed to do- Make you forgive and forget past transgressions, dance and bob your head until you forget everything becoming putty in his hands?