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Album Review: Jamie Lidell - 'Jamie Lidell'

Innovative, Futuristic

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


Album Review: Jamie Lidell - 'Jamie Lidell'
If you grew up loving 1980s R&B -- or what passed for R&B back in the '80s -- you're likely to dig what British soul-electronic artist Jamie Lidell has cooked up for his self-titled fifth studio album. The album, which was released in the U.S. Feb. 19, 2013 is a collection of synthesizer heavy jams that evoke memories of groups like the Dazz Band, Mtume and LeVert. But this isn't just some one-time retro R&B experiment. Throughout his career, Jamie has straddled the line between Soul, electronic and R&B and this latest release just represents the latest step in his evolution as an artist. And Jamie Lidell the album isn't just a one-dimensional look back at the past; there's also quite a few innovative, futuristic songs here that sound several years ahead of their time.

Quirky, Captivating

Take a helping of '80s synthesized R&B (think of Janet Jackson's groundbreaking 1986 album, Control and you get the idea), add a healthy dose of electro music (a la Midnight Star), toss in some futuristic industrial-type sounds and then stir well and what you get, more or less, is Jamie Lidell's self-titled fifth album. This collection of songs is so adventurous and hops back and forth so much musically that there's no way that an American urban music artist would have recorded or released it, not in today's overly cautious, creatively stagnant U.S. music marketplace. But to Jamie's credit, he seems much more motivated by crafting quirky, interesting songs than getting anywhere near the top of the charts.
Maybe the prime example of this is "Why_Ya_Why," which starts out as a sort of ragtime-y blues number that you would have heard at a speakeasy back in the mid-t-late 1920s, but over the course of about three minutes it transforms like Optimus Prime into a mechanical-sounding industrial tune. Another song, "So Cold," with its warbly crooning and funk guitar, sounds like an outtake from Andre 3000's half of OutKast's Spearkerboxxx/The Love Below double album.

Blazing Trails

Perhaps the most adventurous tune of all here though, is "What a Shame," a futuristic slice of musical pie that sounds like what it might have been like if Phil Collins had ever recorded with Daft Punk or if George Michael was ever a member of the Ohio Players.
Jamie does stray slightly into traditional R&B territory on "Don't You Love Me," the album's only (relatively) downbeat song. The relationship tune, about a romance in shambles sticks out sonicly, but not in a bad way. It's a soulful plea full of gravity and emotion. If he made more songs like this, people would likely be calling him the next Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke, but obviously he's a man who prefers to create his own path, rather than follow anyone else's. And Jamie Lidell, despite all its sonic tributes to decades past, is definitely a quirky, yet fascinating trailblazer of an album. It's way out of step with what's considered mainstream R&B or Soul music in today's world, but that makes is no less a quality release. In fact, it's near-subversive going against the grain of what's popular in music may even be an attribute.
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