Wednesday, 20 April 2016

#ESPspotlight Review: Life on Earth by Musiq Soulchild

I've been waiting for this.

I've been waiting for this like you've been waiting to hear from me. Well as explained in my last post, my visits will be lesser, but this is one that I just couldn't miss. A new set from my favourite male soloist since Michael Jackson, is a monumental moment in music. And even though it still doesn't boast the collaboration I've been asking for, over the past decade at least (for the love of ALL that is Holy, will someone please call Mariah)? Musiq Soulchild has still given me a bounty generous enough to dissolve in, and effervesce I did. Now it's your turn....

The first point of note, is the step away from the phonetic album names he became known for. It's a small, marmite disappointment, but not one that really affects the album's direction in any way. At this point, any Salt o' the Earth fan knows, Hejuswannasang...

1. Wait A Minute

My Neosoul King rap-sings his intentions from the bodacious opening. He sounds hungry, like he's missed this. He sounds like he's gonna eat the mic whole, he's so ready, like a prize fighter stepping in the ring for a much-revued bout. And he's got us on the ropes in Round One. The switch up at the bridge is the typically smooth pre-sex we've come to expect from him, right up until he starts rapping....what just happened here? How did that just work? It's not remotely like anything we've come to expect from him, and yet; from the outset of 'OnMyRadio' it feels like a natural progression that we should've done. It's a stellar 5-star moment.

2. Who Really Loves You

This far into the game, it should be a question of where else can Musiq take his musical formula...have we not heard all that such a distinctive brand has to offer? I know that I certainly thought so, but the production on this 2016 'Marygoround', shows us that there are, in fact, top and bottom note directions that we have not heard from him yet - who knew? This man truly is living up to that belief I had the first time that I heard him duet with Aaries on 'GirlNextDoor', way back in that 2001 first album era: he's our next Marvin Gaye, blended with a little Donny Hathaway, and just a dash of Otis Reading (that means he's great kids).

3. Heart Away

That melodic opening drives us into the heavy funk drumline that Musiq makes mincemeat of. Reminding us there is no one out there who vocally romances us out of the undergarments that were firmly in place before he opened his mouth; he sings blithely about not just giving your heart away to anyone, knowing good N well that he sang it right out from under us, giftwrapped in those aforementioned treacherous undies. If you're looking for his female audience by the end of his smooth outro; you'll find us in that puddle in front of him, on the floor - aurally melted.

4. Loving You

That opening note makes you go "Uh-oh". Ladies (and some gents) hear the point when they become the prey of a (welcome) sexual predator. In this case, it's the second Musiq hits that bassworthy sweetspot that let's you know It. Is. ON. If you're able to break far enough out of his seductive reverie, then not only are you a better woman than me; but he let's you know his intent when he declares this "one of those babymakin melodies". By the time he hits the reminiscence of your casual romantic start, you're lost in the intimacy of the moment, as he vocally caresses you into submission. It's official ladies - we're all winners here, but only Musiq takes the crown.

5. I Do

Aaah here it is. The album's first single is thee most misogynistic proposal of all time - my fellow weak female friends, get ready to find yourself accepting despite being lost in offence. How can someone sound so sultry while being so rude? This is the definition of being unromantic, whilst maintaining your bravado for the fellas. He's saving face by hiding the mush in a sexy little velvet box suddenly sprung from his breast pocket. Collectively we want to be offended dammit! But he just sounds so, damn, sexy, whilst he makes out that you browbeat him into jumping the broom....he's such a...a...a MAN!!!!

6. Changed My Mind

An intro that sounds straight out of 70s soul, a la Heatwave, has you questioning The Creator - what fresh torture is this? We're so glad to hear that he's changed his mind about spending his life alone, but unless he's deciding on spending it with this individual listener, it really feels like salt he's saucily rubbing into that open wound he sexily sliced open (maybe I've been watching too much Hannibal prior to listening).

7. Walk Away

Moving forward chronologically, this 80s soul-tinged number is the singer's most detached so far in the set. His delivery is an A+ in his shaping and characterisation of his lyrics, but Musiq doesn't quite 'put his foot in' this one as he does with every track prior to it, almost as if he doesn't want to be singing about leaving a situation. It makes you wonder if he's in a 'happy moment' personally....and see bunny boiler red. Once again,  maybe my viewing habits are clouding my judgement....

8. Far Gone

The heaviest bass line yet leads us into this official entering of a breakup anthem. His heart is back in this one, you feel him in the throaty, deep delivery. New kid on the block Rapsody's offering of the female perspective is bang on point; talking about the beautiful beginning to "the cold side of the bed" end. It's a tangible, emotional hip-hop offering.

9. Part of Me

JoiStaRR's intro is a wholesome, heartbleeding plea that begs her love to leave the skank he knows doesn't love him like she does; she wants to do something about keeping her man, and we're in her corner. Then Musiq offers a different perspective that feels like a follow on from 'Who Really Loves You'; according to him, she didn't want him when she had him, but he's not happy with her replacement, so they face off and go toe-to-toe. It's a brilliant r&b slice, another classic collaboration for Musiq, a just beautiful anthem.

10. Alive and Well

Is the socially-conscious moment that urges people to recognise their blessings and be happy with their lot. The fact that he uses the opportunity for some of the most awesome scatting and harmonisation that we have ever heard from him does not make me does however, make me wish I could do that; so in closing the song with it, he undoes all the good that he may previously have done, by making people envious of him! Maybe should've thought on that one a bit more!

11. The Girl

The piano-intro indicates a romantic moment that Musiq delivers as a means of distraction, before subtly suggesting The Girl of his dreams (who bears a remarkable vocal resemblance to Alicia Keys), take a step back and 'let him be the man while she stays in her place'. It's a little disappointing that he feels the need to ask "where does that leave room for me" of a female who is supposed to be a superhero (surely if she's a superhero, your 'does' are taken care of)? It's a bit of an unattractive ploy, despite how beautiful it sounds; but on the bright side, your undergarments will stay safely locked in place.

12. Life on Earth

The braggadocious intro sets up a big entry, and thankfully, the undies are back to twitching, as they should be when this maestro sings. "Loving you is all I wanna do on this Life on Earth"; that's what we wanna hear, isn't it girls? He's not performing for the fellas, asking us to give up part of ourselves, or change for his benefit, he just wants to love his love as is. Now that's the Musiq I fell in love with.

Musiq Soulchild

Life on Earth is out now; available at various prices from the following retail and digital outlets:

Until the next...
ES ;)