Despite a single that set a record on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 2009 and an album that topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart the same year, the name of Detroit-based singer-songwriter K'Jon is still unfamiliar to many music fans. But on his new album, Moving On
, the singer -- whose full name is Kelvin Johnson, FYI -- builds on the success of his hit single "On the Ocean"
and debut album, I Get Around
and makes an attempt to solidify his name in the music industry and marketplace. Moving On
, released in the U.S. April 17, 2012 by Shanachie Entertainment, is easily one of the better R&B albums of the first half of the year. And impressively, K'Jon manages to accomplish this without relying on big name super-producers, well-known guest artists or attention-grabbing stunts.
If there's any one area where K'Jon clearly has many of his R&B peers beat, it's lyrical substance. Much of the material floating around in contemporary urban music is lyrically shallow to the point where it revolves around just a handful of subjects, including an ideal concept of love, hating a do-wrong man (or woman), and partying in the club. But although K'Jon does take on these subjects, he's also among the rare breed of songwriters these days who go beyond the boring cliches and overdone themes to come up with something more real and substantive. This was especially true on his breakthrough single, "On the Ocean"
in 2009 and the prime example of this on Moving On
is the album's first single, "Will You Be There,"
about a man who wonders whether his woman will stick by him through the bad times: "I been goin' through some things, been dealing with some changes, but girl I got one question: will you be there?," he sings, with doubt and pain lingering in his voice. It's a very sober -- and sobering -- song, particularly considering the economic times of the past few years, with millions of people losing their livelihoods during the most recent recession.
Another song where K'Jon's lyrical acumen is on point is the album's closing track, "Super Momma," where he praises his mother for her ability to raise six kids: "I don't know how you did it, but somehow you managed," he sings. "You must've been heaven-sent, God is your friend, 'cause he gave you the strength/Stronger than Winnie Mandela, you're my Michele Obama, you're one bad Super Momma." Not only is it a beautiful ode from a son to his mother, it's also a tribute to all woman who's had to raise children without a spouse or under other less-than-ideal circumstances. And what makes it even more touching is that K'Jon's children sing background vocals on the track and his siblings also make spoken guest appearances.
Fortunately, even though K'Jon is head and shoulders above most R&B artists lyrically, he still never loses the common man's perspective on the songs here: not all the material on Moving On
is heavy stuff thematically. Maybe the perfect example of this is the album's second single, "Bad Gurl,"
where he sings about his need for a chick who can get a little dirty in the club. "She's bad, she's bad, and she knows what she's working with," he sings. "All the bad gurls on the floor." And on "Ex Amnesia," which features rapper Jonsey, K. sings about how he can make a woman forget about a do-wrong man. Another song, "Wonderland," a duet with singer Mistee Merritt, is one of those sweeping, idealistic love songs. But the difference when K'Jon tackles somewhat cliche topics is that he brings a fresh perspective and adds a new twist to them, rather than regurgitating the same song in the same style as his musical peers.
All in all, Moving On
is a very balanced and well-rounded album that many true R&B fans can get behind. You've got your cerebral material, emotional ballads, faster tempo songs and even hip hop-influenced tracks. The album, which was mostly produced by K'Jon himself with a few other collaborators, is practically a must-hear for anyone who's been disappointed in the cold and increasingly shallow direction of contemporary urban music. This is a warm, uplifting album that proves that quality R&B still lives.