Chrisette Michele may be signed to the hip-hop label Def Jam and she may have sung hooks in the past for the rappers Nas and Jay-Z, but she proves on her debut album, I Am, that she definitely is a R&B artist through-and-through. Chrisette, whose singing style evokes comparisons to Erykah Badu, Billie Holiday and Jill Scott, has put together an album that contains the fresh, sunny optimism of the young, but is wrapped in an old-school sound, style and sensibility. And despite being only in her mid-20s, Chrisette has a well-polished voice that is just as bright and sunny as her apparent outlook on life.
Rare is the singer who can successfully incorporate R&B, hip-hop and
jazz into their work, but Chrisette Michele gives it a whirl on I Am
. Despite being signed to a label that's synonymous with hip-hop, Chrisette has defied expectations and delivered a very old-fashioned R&B album that carries a heavy jazz influence. Some songs like the opening track, "Like a Dream," sound more like they belong on a Blue Note release, rather than a Def Jam one, and other songs are unabashed odes to bygone era.
For instance, on "Golden," she sings about yearning for a committed relationship: "I'm so ready to be like the olden days when commitment was golden," she sings. Messages of love, fidelity and commitment are plentiful on the album, especially on "In This for You," where she sings about her loyalty and dedication to her man: "I love you more than money," she sings. Now that's love.
Despite leaning heavily on jazz and adult contemporary R&B, a couple of songs on the album are hip hop-influenced: the up-tempo break-up "Be Ok," which features the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am, and the darn good feel-good party song "Let's Rock."
Chrisette is so squeaky-clean she even has a song about it: "Good Girl," a catchy, bass and percussion-driven jam is not only one of the album's better tracks, it proves that you actually make a song about being good person that's compelling. And that in itself is quite an accomplishment.
So the bottom line is this: if you're a fan of old-fashioned, relatively drama-free R&B and jazz music full of positive emotions, then this is the album for you.