On his fourth album, Sex Therapy (released in the U.S. on Dec. 15, 2009), Blue-Eyed Soul crooner Robin Thicke lets his inner freak out and gets a little wild. Anything else you've heard by him is tame compared to most of the material on this album. Where before he was known as a true gentleman, this time out he's got a one track mind and is singing about things like stealing other mens' women, the joy of sex in the morning, and trickin' in clubs. Yes, people: Robin Thicke is singing about trickin' in clubs. Although it's great that Thicke's expanding his horizons, Sex Therapy isn't completely what the doctor ordered.
Thanks to studio wizardry these days, pretty much anyone can put out a hit single. All it takes is a little vocal ability, some self confidence and good producers to tweak the product until it sounds just right. And so any new R&B singer coming out these days is bound to face questions about whether they can really sing. Well, on her debut album, The Bridge, which was released via iTunes on Oct. 20, 2009 and will be available everywhere else Nov. 10, Toronto singer Melanie Fiona shows us that although her first hit single, "Give it to Me Right" benefits from great production, her voice is the true star of the show.
Ledisi's first album for Verve Records, Lost & Found, was chock full of mature, Jazz-influenced R&B. It was a solid album, but it also didn't exactly establish her a a major presence in the music world. And on her follow-up, Turn Me Loose, Ledisi (it's pronounced led-uh-see) switches up and goes for a more up-tempo sound that leans more toward R&B than Jazz. And although it probably won't establish her as a major player in the music world, it's definitely an album that could win her some new fans. Turn Me Loose, as the title suggests, has more of a sense of immediacy and urgency than her previous work.
R&B lovers can sigh in relief at the release of Chrisette Michelle’s sophomore album, Epiphany. The album is laced with 12 tracks that infuse Chrisette’s signature jazz flavor with contemporary R&B. Mid-tempos and a slew of ballads, which are accompanied by some sparse "feel good" cuts, comprise the album. With the aid of songwriter-producer Ne-Yo, Epiphany successfully tackles many themes.
It was a long 17 years between albums for ex-New Jack Swing crooner Al B. Sure!, but on his new release, Honey I'm Home, which came out in the U.S. on June 23, 2009, Al shows that he's still got it. Not every song on the album is perfect, but for the most part, Al's voice is still silky smooth and he still has knack for making romantic, sensual songs that women can fall in love with and men can definitely appreciate. Honey I'm Home is a tastefully produced, well-sung album that continues Hidden Beach Recordings' long streak of quality music that appeals to fans of sophisticated R&B and Soul music.
Trey Songz has been inconsistent his whole career. Some of his songs, like "Can't Help But Wait," off his second album, Trey Day are compelling, well-sung tracks that properly displaying his considerable singing talent. But for every great song of his, there's weaker tracks like "Wonder Woman," (off Trey Day) and "LOL :)" off his new, third album, Ready, which was released in the U.S. on Aug. 31, 2009. On Ready, Trey continues to straddle the fence between being a horny boy and ladies' man. The bad news is that he hasn't completely mastered the balancing act; but the good news is that this is his best attempt so far.
Although she's flown under the radar of the mainstream music world in recent years, Teena Marie has still managed to cultivate a career that most singers would envy. Over a career that's spanned more than 30 years, she's consistently managed to put out very good - sometimes great - music and has cultivated a very loyal following of devoted fans. And on her 13th studio album, Congo Square (released in the U.S. by Stax Records on June 9, 2009), Teena shows that although she may be getting older, her passion for music, creativity and voice are still as strong and powerful as they were during her peak in the 1980s.
Ryan Leslie earns his living mainly as a music producer, so it should come as no shock that his self-titled debut album is well-produced. But what does come as a mild surprise is that Ryan can actually sing. He's not exactly a top-tier crooner like R. Kelly when it comes to vocal skills, but he's not an Auto-Tune addict like T-Pain, either. He's actually in between: a credible singer with a pleasant natural voice who makes up for his limited vocal range by sticking to his strengths. Ryan's debut, which came out Feb. 10, 2009, doesn't set the world on fire, but it does establish R-Les as a credible singer.
Melinda Doolittle may not have won the sixth season of the "American Idol" singing competition back in 2007, but along the way she did win several other things, including more confidence, good experience and plenty of fans. And on her debut solo album, Coming Back to You (released in the U.S. on Feb. 3, 2009), Melinda shows and proves once again that she's a strong - no, make that powerful - vocalist who's versatile enough to incorporate various musical styles, including R&B, Soul, Gospel and Pop, into her songs. On the list of R&B-leaning former "American Idol" hopefuls and winners, Melinda Doolittle's near the top.
The album’s major strength lies in the variations of the love themes, which are embedded within many of the tracks. Izibor makes writing contributions to each song and this makes for a more personable vocal delivery. There are no ladies' anthems coercing women to kick their partners "to the left," no trite and overplayed sexual innuendos, and no mantras to bust out your cheating lover’s windows. Rump-shaking club bangers are nonexistent as the album is mainly comprised of ballads and mid-tempos. Izibor attempts to take us back to the days where singers sung about love and heartache, and adults acted like adults and not lovesick adolescents.