If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then Trey Songz
must be feeling very flattered these days. And that's because former "X Factor" contestant Marcus Canty sounds uncannily similar to Trey on multiple tracks on his debut seven-song EP. Marcus, who finished in fourth place on the first season of the American version of the reality show, may have shown promise, but one thing he displays too little of is a distinct musical personality and style. Music mogul LA Reid may have seen enough potential in Marcus on "The X Factor" to make him sign the Washington, DC native to a contract with Epic Records, but This ... is Marcus Canty
, which will be released in the U.S. March 5, 2013, is a relatively tepid collection of R&B songs.
Things actually start off really well on This ... is Marcus Canty
. The opening song, "In & Out,"
is a strong, uptempo tune that's full of bounce and personality. It's a passionately sung tale of a man who's slow to fall in love, but quick to fall out of it. "I've been trying to find a good thing, but it's never good enough for me/You might think that I’m crazy, it ain't what it seems, I’m praying that maybe someday we will meet," he sings. "And you’ll try to find a way to my heart, I’ll be trying to find a way to lead, So I’d be in and out of love, in and out of love." Also helping the song is great chemistry with the rapper Wale, who pops up for a few verses.
But on the very next song, "Don't Pass Me By," things take an unusual turn. Marcus seems to be doing his very best Trey Songz
impersonation on the song; the vocal similarity is far too strong to be a coincidence. The song itself -- which is about immediately becoming smitten with a woman after a casual encounter -- is fine, if not particularly imaginative. But the blatant Trey Songz imitation doesn't just weaken the song, but also the singer himself. The same goes for another track, "Three Words," a love song that's so Trey-like that if you didn't know it was a Marcus Canty tune, you'd swear Trey himself recorded it.
But the album has other problems other than the vocal homages. Although Marcus, 22, comes across as a charming young man who, apparently has a winning look and smile, too often here, he seems to just be singing what he, his producers and his record label think people want to hear, and not what's actually in his heart. One of the things that's always been a knock on the performers who've competed on reality shows, including "American Idol" and "X Factor," is that after their season of the show ends and they head into the studio to record their debuts, they wind up generating safe, sometimes bland, cookie-cutter music that's watered down in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, with Ruben Studdard
and Jordin Sparks being among the examples cited. Another complaint about singers who emerge from reality shows is that they're sometimes not as talented or creatively well-rounded as their musical peers who take the tougher route of working their way up the ladder in the business, rather than taking the shortcut through television.
The first complaint may apply to This is ...
, since it's a fairly generic compilation of songs with not much originality, the accusation of lack of talent doesn't apply here. Despite not finishing in the top three on his season of "X Factor" and even though he relies on another singer a little too much for inspiration, Marcus Canty definitely has the vocal talent it takes to succeed in the music business. As long as LA Reid continues to mentor him at Epic Records -- and as long as Marcus remains committed to developing his skills -- he Marcus could eventually become a force within the R&B industry in the years to come.