After taking time away to be treated for alcoholism and struggling through record label mergers and politics, Jones has come back with a solid album that makes good use of some of R&B's more talented producers.
Strong & Smooth
The best song -- by far -- is the first track, "Special Girl." Jones has been known as a humble, reserved man, but on "Special Girl," he sings about his status as "the hottest single (brother) to step on the scene," and how it takes more than good sex, a pretty smile and good cooking to win him over.
It may be natural talent, or it could be studio wizardry, but Jones' voice sounds just as smooth and strong as always, and he also retains his title as one of R&B's greatest modern-day songwriters.
Among the examples of his lyrical acumen include "My Apology," a midtempo, melancholy song laced with subtle acoustic guitar. On the song, he asks for forgiveness for neglecting his woman: "You said you'd never leave, now you're tryin' to turn your back on me, I understand you've got no trust in me, but I'll change for you if you promise that you'll stay with me, please accept my apology."
On "Cuttin' Me Off," he uncharacteristically stops being polite and keeps it real as he tries to defend himself against charges of cheating on his woman: "For a change, won't you shut up and let me explain? I'ma tell you exactly where I was, but you keep cuttin' me off," he sings. "You done said a mouthful, now I'm gonna speak my mind, and you gon' let me finish."
Other winners include the sad, spiritual song "Cry," and "Can't Wait," a sexy number about lust.
Not everything on the album's good though: rapper Bun B sounds pretty lame on the upbeat, pop-ish "If You Want," which is about trying to woo a woman away from her man; and Jermaine Dupri may be a great producer, but that's what he should stick to; His rapping on "Better Start Talking" adds absolutely nothing to the song. If there had to be a rap part, then a smoother, more talented MC should have been given the opportunity.