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Album Review: Goapele - 'Break of Dawn'

'Break'ing Through

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Album Review: Goapele - 'Break of Dawn'
© Skyblaze Records.
On her first three albums, R&B singer Goapele shied away from showing her sexier, more sultry side. Although she sang a lot about love and romance, social and political awareness has been as big a theme in her music. But on her fourth studio album, Break of Dawn, we get a much more substantive feel for her as a person. Break of Dawn, which was released in the U.S. on Oct. 25, 2011, is by far her most personal album yet, which is ironic, since it's the first of her albums to have a wide range of co-writers and producers. But despite the various hands contributing, this album is better than her past efforts at showing her as a real, live person rather than a two-dimensional character.

Laid Bare

Not only is Goapele one of those under-the-radar singers whom a lot of fans of mainstream R&B don't know a lot about, but a lot of her fans don't know much about either. Or at least as far as her life outside the recording booth and off the stage go. You hardly hear her talk about her personal life, and you'll probably never come across her name in gossip columns. Smartly, she's let her music do all the representing for her so far in her career. But throughout Break of Dawn, she sings several songs about situations that can be interpreted as at least semi-autobiographical. The main of which is "Hush," a touching song that's basically a lullaby from a single working mother to her child. "Hush little baby, your mama is coming back soon/Trust me my baby, I'm working so hard for you/I know your daddy is gone, baby your daddy was wrong/Listen my baby, your mama will take care of you," she sings.
Another piece of her soul is laid bare on "Tears on My Pillow," an almost bluesy number about crying yourself to sleep over being abandoned and brokenhearted. "Each time I cry, my tears land straight on my pillow," she sings. "Cause there's no other way for me to let go."

Sexy Time

© Skyblaze Records.
But the biggest thrill on Break of Dawn is the first single, "Play," a smooth, ultra-sexy ode to lovemaking. Goapele sets the mood right from the get-go with these seductive opening lyrics: "I wanna know what you wanna do/What if I could say there wasn't any rules?/I wanna play, play around/Tell me if you think that you can get down/Cause this is what I'm dying for, this is what I'm dying to do." It's also sexy-time on another song, "Undertow," where she sings about being taken under by a person's animal magnetism: "How you were licking your lips, I could tell you were danger," she sings.
If the full album was a great as the first five songs, this would easily be a four-star album. But unfortunately, the song quality begins to taper off halfway through. And since this is a nine-song album, that ain't good. The sixth song, "Money," has a nice message about how currency isn't as important as love, but although the vocals are spirited, the lyrics and singing don't quite mesh well with the backing music, which is a mishmash of alternative soul and light rock. Each of the last three songs also has similar problems, particularly the intentional overuse of Auto-Tune on "Milk & Honey."
But even with its minor problems, this is a solid release that Goapele fans should be happy with and could have on repeat listening for the next few weeks and months. And some songs, particularly the aforementioned "Play," are likely to win her some new fans.
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