Monday, 3 November 2014

#MusicMonday - #LostInMusic Spotlight Review: Jagged Edge - JEHeartbreakII

As I sit in front of my favourite window in the new abode, this is not the type of return piece that I want to be bringing you. It's been awhile since we've spent any special time together, so what I had hoped to do, was reflect something appropriate to the joy of returning to times of old. Oh and well

Let me lay the background for those new to music talks in this little space of mine. Long-time readers will be aware that I am a HUGE +Mariah Carey  fan. I love that lady like family. In fact, I love her more than some family membershey, if you met them, you'd understand… The point of that little verbal venture, was to explain that whilst Mariah is my favourite female vocalist, and even more avid readers will know that Michael Jackson is, and will forever be my favourite male. Barring the Jackson 5, one area that I do not believe I have covered, is my favourite group. Well here they are. Brandon and Brian Casey, Richard Wingo, and Kyle Norman are Jagged Edge; the Atlanta-based foursome, who have been romancing my ears and imagination since a soppy ex used 'Promise' as a way to scoreill-placed points, and um, all the spoils that came with the win, back in 1998…Damn my R&B weakness.

JEHeartbreak II is available from all major outlets now
Well anywhoo, here we are, on the release of their eighth album, supposedly a sequel to their second (and arguably best) and me with words I never thought I would express in connection with a JE release. Thirteen ballads, all well written, when it comes to demonstrating devotion to their love. With their out of this world harmonies, and manly, forceful delivery, they are nothing short of four vocal prince charmings, come to rescue their maidens from the woes of lost love and broken hearts. The last group to take musical composition as a whole, seriously. That's why it was so shocking to me that on the very first listen, I did not get the familiar goosies (or Goosebumps –the barometer by which I judge solid winners) that has always followed one of their tracks.

I thought this may just be down to opening track Future. Nice as it is, to hear of the longing for one who holds their future in her eyes, with crystal clear visuals, thanks to the most dramatic of metaphors, I just couldn't put my finger on what was missing. The simplistic, but memorable hook, courtesy of Executive Producer Mr Jermaine Dupri, with a little help from a man who has music flowing through his veins – Mr Bryan Michael Cox did nothing to help either.

I attributed the lack of connection to teething troubles, which I assumed would be resolved by second track Familiar. After all, picking up a female in a bar, taking her somewhere so they can 'get more familiar', whilst turning it into the hottest romance of the century, is something this group has down pat – almost like a scientific formula. Or so I thought. For the first time in sixteen years, I did not want to be the girl in the bar. For the first time, even if the words came straight from Brian Casey himself, they would elicit a knockback – that has never happened before! What is going ON, here?

Fourth track Hope brought it's namesake back; as the old magic peeked out for a moment. A pre-cursor to the album, this single had absolutely no-one worried as to the forthcomer's strength, because it was classic Jagged Edge material. With a new freshness that we know they have the power to bring to what is, essentially, a worn out topicgirl meets boy / boy makes girl fall in love / boy gets bored with the chase, then stops making any form of effort / boy gets bump on head (usually from girl's suitcase as she walks over him after kicking him to the curb), and miraculously, boy realises girl is a keeper – The End. R&B Gold, you could stake an album on…couldn't you?

Things I Do for You roused my pulse slightly and almost spurred ONE goosie – I watched carefully for the rise on my skin. In this one, everybody has something to say about the apple of the group’s individual eyes. Faith, hope, trust, honesty, love and attraction are all present, and as such, there is no limit to the things that they would do for their ladylove. One of the album's stronger songs undoubtedly, but despite those flawless Casey harmonies, it doesn't stand up to any of their own classics. Gimme an I Don't Wanna would you?

Love Come Down raised a goosebump on life support with an intro that smacked of hope, promise, and sexual promiscuity. Whilst the latter flowed in abundance, that was about the full size of it (no pun intended). There was no love coming anywhere over here (honestly – no puns, I swear).

The most noticeable thing about It's Been You is the vocal prowess of the group. This is the one that proves they still have it. No originality in terms of the concept – after endlessly wasting some poor girl's time, they've just realised that it's her love they craved the whole time. But in this instance, it doesn't need to be, because if we're truly honest, then we'll admit that this is their wheelhouse, and boy do they work it well. Another female would be along to fall for their charms, faster than the 254 bus, provided they just keep singing. Still no goosies, but for the overall production and delivery 10/10.

Another of the strong tracks on the set, Wanna Be (Romeo) sets you up to think something game changing is on the way. It packs a punch, but it's no Remedy-like knockout. And therein lies the shame.

And then something happened…The intro to Getting over You began, and a seductive lick of harmonies came in pleading, about not wanting to spend the rest of their lives getting over their true love. It wasn't a body full, but there was one - one single, solitary Goosebump – YES! This album was not a complete failure! Nine tracks in, but this album has itself a Saving Grace! I let out the biggest sigh of relief I had since the first time that I heard the opening strains of Faded on Me. I AM Mariah – the worry was over! It was not a flop! I was SO scared! Now that the boys had started the show, one could only hope that they would not drop the ball – so overexcited was I, in my little mixed metaphor world…So?

Ready was next and…I must say that my hope was not there from the intro BUT, then the direction changed as you listened to the helpless pleas about not being "the one who's 50 and alone"…The momentum stayed just enough to make you believe as they sang of their readiness to be in love. The desperation was palpable in the faux timekeeping metronome of the backbeat.

Make It Clear is the point in a JE album where things tend to wane a little, but not this time. In case there is any confusion, they've picked their prey, she is in their sights, and there is to be no dillydallying – when she decides that she wants a man, there is a choice of four standing right there, awaiting her choosing, like cake on the dessert tray.

No Half Steppin' is another strong contender for good album status. Strong R&B, but it is not one that would stop me in my tracks. It's no In the Morning; but it is a nice place to be, late in an album where attention may be straying. It took six listens for me to start to hear what this album really has to offer, and this is one that I did not need explained.

Unfortunately, in typical fashion, the boys close with something questionable (we all remember that entirely unnecessary Promise remix, for which Jermaine Dupri still has not been held accountable over to this day). Posters (We Stay on One) is supposedly a reminder to all, that Jagged Edge never have, nor ever will, lose their strength, pull, or position in this here music game. Skin firmly flat, there is not a goosie to be felt, as this would be my contender for the wackest…I mean Weakest track on the album. I'm sorry, but they're better than this. Leave these antics to groups who need to remind their audiences that they still exist. This track should've been sold to 112

And so. I reiterate my earlier statement; this is not a piece that I ever expected to write about this group. I never thought the day would come, when I would have to say that my beloved Jagged Edge released a below par album. I never imagined that I would have to be telling you, that at best, a Jagged Edge album, could only ever earn a seriously generous, fan-fuelled rating of 6/10, and never, in a million aeons, warrant an equal footing with the first part in the instalment, but…alas, the times, they are a'changing.

Am I wrong? Do you feel I've been too harsh? Or have I been too overfriendly, purely based on my love for my favourite male singing group? Let me know in your house below. For now though, I'm off before the die-hards get me!

Until the next…
ES ;)