Thursday, 18 April 2013

#ESPspotlight Review: 'Born II Sing, Volume III' (Mixtape), Eric Bellinger

If you're a longtime reader, then you will remember my '7 Days, 7 Mixtapes To Set The Valentine Mood' Series in February, when I told you about Mr Eric Bellinger and his 'Bedroom Music'...Those who recall may want to take a moment to fan the strange heat that has suddenly befallen them; the rest of you? Well I don't want to call it foreplay, but you may need a moment to catch up...

At the time, I told you that the third instalment was slated for release any day, and promised to keep my beady eyes on Mr B and his behaviour, so I could bring you the third volume as soon as it arrived - I'm just that helpful kind of a gal. Then I listened to it after it's midnight release on Monday, and decided that I needed some...let's call it 'Personal Time' with it; purely so that I could erm, think about how best to present it to you. So that's all I was doing with it since...Promise...

Sexytime. 13 Rounds. Underwear Detonator. All reflex descriptions that come to mind when I listened to this body of work. Eric Bellinger's music is kryptonite to elastic strings everywhere, and you can tell anyone who contests it that I said so. If I take the obvious out of the equation which - is not an easy feat to accomplish, believe me - then the most adequate description for #BIISVIII is Graduation. With the first two instalments, Bellinger was already en route to bringing back the best of Soulful RnB, but there were a few bumps in the road. With this latest project, there are none. If there was a Valedictorian position in Sex Music *ahem*...RnB, then with this one, Mr B most definitely seals the deal.

Friends DJ Ill Will and Usher provide hosting duties (proving that writing #1s for most of today's big hitters provides perks beyond cutting those recurring cheques). Bed Medicine makes you want to take it to the mattress alright, but slumber is the last thing on your mind. He runs the full gamut of his vocal range, which is ambitious for all but real singers with real voices nowadays. Best of all, Bellinger doesn't overdo the falsetto. Note to male singers worldwide: Yes we females like to know that you can hit those 'spots', but you see, where you prove age by ID, we also listen for proof that more than your octaves have dropped.

ASAP is no quick finish which is just as well, because we also don't like false advertising. I love the way that Mr B goes from being your bedroom 'Pusha Man', to feening for a little something in 3 minutes and 32 seconds flat. 'He needs', Ladies - his words, not mine. Seems like quite the open invitation to provide him with your most inventive skills. Unless I'm mistaken, I do believe he's confirming he's a sure thing?

I'm a fan of the humour brought by the Club Lights duet with Tank. Those two have an unmistakable vocal chemistry, proven on the previous Born II Sing instalment and their camaraderie is impossible to miss. The age old tale of caution learned previous 'beer goggle mistakes'; I have to say that as massive a tune as this  undoubtedly is, my sympathy expires right around Tank's line about the h**s all looking alike behind his shades.

SOAPBOX MOMENT (you know I have to): To all the dudes who follow this suit, know that no-one sympathises with your predicament, when you could easily have avoided your own embarrassment by acting with that little common sense thing! Y'know, when you're Inside. In the DARK! If you will engage in such behaviour, then you deserve for your HalleKellyBeyonce-lookalike night-time friend, to look like Susan Boyle + IceT + Shabba Ranks in the cold light of day. I'm sorry - you asked for it!

Anywhoo. Back to Eric's tracklisting and Say No is one of those photo-finish standouts in a damn near perfect collection. Featuring Rapper Problem; Mr B uses this ode to the one(s) who won't leave his pants alone, to play my favourite 'Name That Sample' game (hey, we all have our OCD-level obsessions). Some lethal vocals over The Jeff Lorber Fusion's 'Rain Dance' (better known as Lil Kim's 'Crush On You' beat), and a touch of The Isley's 'Summer Breeze' intro if I'm not mistaken; in addition to the overall work lyrically and arrangement-wise, is enough of a killer package that the extra bells and whistles had no noticeable impact, in my humble opinion. Imagine the most succulent meat you ever tasted, then adding water for seasoning. You'd wonder what the point was, if you cared about anything beyond your tongue in that moment.

Body Language featuring Sha Sha Jones makes you want to say some things with fluency, with organs that don't form words. What I love about this track more than the others, is that it has that 'Golden Era of RnB' glow to it. It wouldn't raise an eyebrow if you threw it on a playlist with some H-Town, Kut Klose, Whitehead Bros and (pre-IMX) Immature...y'know, in the days when we (I) just knew Romeo was gonna have that breakout career? And then he didn't and we (I) were just crushed? Look it's Sexy. Just know the song is Capital S-Sexy, alright? Now can we please collectively sigh, and shake our heads in sadness for the group members without that lead singer shine...or career? It's a damn shame.

R&B Singer kicks off the second half, after Usher pops back up to remind you who you're listening to. This is one of those rare times when an Interlude is good enough to be a full song so it leaves you a little bitter and unfriendly, because you feel short-changed. Even though the theme of it breaches the brink of Female Laws just a little bit, I can't help but be a tad traitorous to  my kind - gimme more of that Eric...

You'll Learn is a BIG track, full of transitions that are addictive.  Do not be surprised if this is the track that cements him as a solo artist in his own rightJ Doe returns for his third guest spot in the 'Born II Sing' series, and makes me laugh at the irony of trying to be a "good Christian", followed by the 2nd most insulting term to any woman with a modicum of self-respect, only a line later. Aside from that teensy contradiction in terms, J Doe drops a nice 16 and for once, I actually like the Hip Hop addition to a Bellinger track! The biggest question this song leaves me with though, is why does it make me think of Saloons? As in Westerns? Just me? Something about that piano loop has me literally visualising an entire 'Quick Draw McGraw' treatment, everytime I listen to it! Let me know if you get the same thing in the Comment Box below please!

Film Me featuring Sevyn has you imagining things from Kim's point of view for the first time since 2007. And by point of view, I mean angle. Of the camera. This one leaves you wanting to let Mr B hit that record button first.

Somewhere features Victoria Monet and another addictive piano loop that hooks you from the start. The tale of fighting to forget your ex, in order to happily move on with your next, sees the two voices blend so nicely that you actually buy the 'New Love' story they're selling. A+.

What You Want featuring Treasure Davis is another instance of that 90s RnB Perfection. After my five million and twelfth listen, I crown this Keith Sweat-meets-Total's-first-album-like track my favourite. What else did you think I meant by 'Personal Time' with this mixtape? It's taken me this long to pick one! Ms Davis is the standout female vocalist of the mixtape for Yours Truly; not just because she sounds amazing, but her voice is the perfect selection for the beat itself. I wouldn't be surprised if Bellinger wrote to it with her in mind. There is not one bad thing about this...For a female. I can understand why men may not like Mr B when it comes to songs like this. I'd hate him too if he was my competition. Don't know about you all, but this is What I Want. In Music and in Life!

With Get A Loan, I doubt I'd be particularly impressed with the initial concept on paper, had I not heard it first. There's something a little bit R. Kelly, 'You Remind Me Of Something' about it, that is gradually growing on me. I get it, I'm just not sure I feel it, if you feel me? When you listen to the way he delivers though; the man could be singing you into female slavery - but he sounds so damn good while he's doing it that you'd only thank him, and fasten your own shackle...Saucy and double entendre-heavy (therefore making it a winner with moi), Eric Bellinger makes you forget the radio of current day, that makes you want to stab your own eardrums with a pair of the sharpest 2HB pencils that you can find. This guy reminds you of a time when your radio was your best friend and shoot, would have been your boyfriend, if it operated with a different kind of pulse...

Circle of Love gives new meaning to bringing up the rear - there's no confusion about where you and your listening partner should be by this point; although the question could be raised as to why exactly you're not there already...The final cut succeeds in what The Isleys best described as a 'Mission to Please' - Mr Bellinger, you did not fail...

13-tracks of Audio Good-Good, 'Born II Sing, Volume III' is out now

Download your copy of 'Born II Sing, Volume III' from iTunes now, and thank me for warning you not to listen to it alone (or Single), in the Comment Box below...

Enjoy and You're Welcome!
ES ;)