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Review: Brian McKnight's "Ten"

A Change Has Done Him Good

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Review: Brian McKnight's

"Ten" album cover © Warner Bros. Records.

When a longtime relationship loses its magic, the parties in that relationship typically do one of two things; they a) try to find a way to rekindle that magic, or b) they decide to go their separate ways. Well, in the case of Brian McKnight and Motown Records, they chose the latter. And that decision has proven to be a good one for McKnight who sounds completely rejuvenated on his tenth album, appropriately titled Ten. Not only is Ten an all-around better album than his last Motown release, 2005's Gemini, it arguably ranks among his best three or four albums ever.

A Creative Rebirth

After the relative lack of success of his lackluster 2005 album Gemini, it looked like Brian McKnight's career might be on the decline. However, it turns out that all he needed to get his mojo back was a new record label to call home. And Ten, McKnight's first album for Warner Bros. (and tenth overall) is a return to form for one of contemporary R&B's best male artists.

Ten is a huge shot in the arm to McKnight's career creatively. He clearly sounds like a man reborn, particularly on the album's first song and lead single, "Used To Be My Girl." The song is mostly notable for two things: one, instead of the songs being aimed at a female, for the first time he's written a song where he's addressing a man; and b) McKnight, who usually plays the sensitive role in his songs, gets a chance to show his cocky side, particularly when he taunts his ex-girlfriend's new man:

Walkin' 'round, sportin' her, holdin' her hand, Doin' it big like you're the man, But she was my girl, She used to be my girl, I must admit that she's a 10, Bet she didn't tell you about way back when, When she was my girl, She used to be my girl.

Oh yes - it's like that. And the situation even escalates and becomes more confrontational later in the song, as McKnight reveals his inner player:
She's still thinkin' 'bout me, And I'll tell you why, She couldn't even hold her head up when you walked by, Don't go hatin' on me, It's just a game ... To me it's all the same.

The song is virtually perfect in all aspects: the lyrics, vocals, production (by the duo Tim & Bob) and originality are all on point here.

Rekindling "Blissful Chemistry"

Single cover © Warner Bros. Records.

But "Used To Be My Girl" is far from the only rock-solid track on the album. The album's second-best tune is the third track, "Find Myself In You," which was originally found on the soundtrack to the movie Madea's Family Reunion earlier this year. On the song, a lusty McKnight coos about how much he's yearning to get with his woman after a long day:

Girl, you're the reason I can make it through the long, long day and that's a fact, Baby I can't wait to get next to you; Oh I can't wait to wrap my arms around your body, Baby I can't help but to tell the truth, Oh, it's so hard to wait 'til no one else is around.

The song, which is McKnight at his best, is reminiscent of classic Marvin Gaye love songs. McKnight continues his more aggressive lyrical approach on other tracks, including the sexy "What's My Name," where he lets a lover know who the bedroom boss is; and "Unhappy Without You," where he warns a lover than unless than can rekindle their "blissful chemistry," then he'll have to cut her loose. Because after all, if he's unhappy with her, he might as well be unhappy without her.

Other than the aforementioned songs, the one that stands out the most is "Red, White & Blue," a patriotic song told from the perspective of a soldier at war writing a letter home to his wife and kids back in the United States. The song, which features Rascal Flatts (yes, the Country music band) sends a nice message to American troops abroad, letting them know that they haven't been forgotten.

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