On Angie Stone's
first three albums, she experimented with singing over hip-hop beats, but it was never a natural fit for her deeply soulful voice. Then on her last album, 2007's The Art of Love & War,
she ditched that approach for the most part in favor of traditional Soul, and this resulted in the best album of her career. This time out, she wisely sticks with the Soul approach, with just one heavily Auto-Tuned track ("Tell Me") thrown in to mix things up a little. If The Art of Love & War
was Angie's best album, then Unexpected
(released in the U.S. on Nov. 23, 2009), is her most balanced and consistent.
is one of those veteran artists who never really seems to get her just due. Despite being a vocalist who's right up there with superstars like Mary J. Blige and Whitney Houston when it comes to vocal power, Angie's never quite reached their level of fame. But despite that, her warm, soulful voice is a joy to the ears. Unexpected
, Angie's fifth studio album, is a sweet Soul album with a stormy undercurrent: unlike much of her past material, which was all about peace and love and Soul, Angie take on some negative topics. Some of the best songs are defiant, where she sings about haters and rumor mongerers and various undesirable people and situations. The result is an album that's sometimes sad, but never depressing. Fortunately, Angie's soulful voice keeps the album from getting too melancholy. Instead, she brings a cool, mature dignity to the songs she sings.
Even when the subject matter's no fun, like on the album's first single, "I Ain't Hearin' U," which is about nasty rumors; and "I Don't Care," about trying to be unconcerned with people who don't like you: "I don't care about what people think about me, and I don't care what people say about me/With all of my haters and yet still I rise," she sings on the song. Other songs have similar themes, with Angie sweetly singing about how she won't be kept down. The album's one big flaw is length; it's 39 minutes long, but that includes an intro and outro track that are a combined three minutes, meaning there's only 36 minutes of actual music here. But all in all, it's a classy, mature Soul-lite album.