When you think male R&B, the first names that may come to mind are Usher, Omarion, Chris Brown or (quality forbid) T-Pain. These artists prominence in the genre have created an arch-type in which to follow because their crossover appeal as entertainers have given them a supple amount of success. But wherein lies that down-to-earth feel of neo-soul, where we can just sit back and groove? Hopefully it comes to us in the form of Raheem DeVaughn.
Capturing a sound that’s reminiscent of the 90’s yet with a pinch of new-age soul, Mr. DeVaughn treats Love Behind The Melody (Jan. 15th) as his get-back to the realm of music. This being his second album released, he builds upon the concrete themes that were put forth on The Love Experience (2005).
One of them, like being a respectful man, is evident on the first track of the album entitled “Woman.” Following in the footsteps of predecessors before him (namely D’ Angelo or Musiq Soulchild), Raheem gives a shout out to the women who make this life worthwhile. It seems he is not the only one who feels this way, as the record has recently been nominated for a Grammy award.
Like an addiction that can’t be relinquished, Raheem pursues his sexual intimacy on “Love Drug.” His analogy isn’t lost when his voice rings out, “So you search for me, with the flashlight / In the daylight, cause I’m your get right / See no one serves you up girl like I can / I’m your Mr. midnight, pusher-man.” This pops out as the strongest track on the album, as well as the most potent in head-nods.
“Friday” gives Raheem DeVaughn a chance to get a little tipsy and have some fun. Playing off the sample of The Temptations “My Girl,” its bounce beat works perfectly with the energy of the record. Though it will likely never be played in the club, it certainly exhibits request material next time you visit one.
The sweet serenade of “Mo Better” creates a beautiful mixing of melodic scaling from Raheem and the harmonic undertones of the horn section on the chorus. What is even more impressive is the fragile, yet caressing amplitude his voice procures throughout this seven-minute performance. Nowhere does he falter, and he makes his best argument on this track as an R&B force to be reckoned with.
His two collaborations on the album, one with Big Boi (one-half of Outkast) and the other with Floetry, hit creative ruts. The latter, entitled “Marathon,” suffers without a climatic result depicted in a lusty bedroom. Where there could have been an explosion of raw intimacy, we are left with repetitive moans that push the track two minutes too long.
The timid Raheem DeVaughn comes out in the fluttery, upbeat “Butterflies.” His sense of a norm is fumbled when his eyes meet the beauty of his dreams. Like a story heard before, he states “I try to say hello / And the words don’t come out right / Wish I could find myself / But it’s a losing fight.” Also note the difference in sound on the record, where a splash of guitar and heavy drum kick compliment well for versatility points.
As if it was inevitable, heartbreak finds its way on the album in the form of “She’s Not You.” From the park bench to Spain, Raheem tries but still cannot release himself of a former love that stole his now-broken heart. His falsetto bridge speaks louder than tears could, where we find the solution yet to be found. Similar in fashion is the synth-pulsed “Empty.” Mixed emotions and memories flood Raheem’s mind, which in turn push his desperation to the brink.
It is safe to say Raheem DeVaughn touches on all the appropriate bases with Love Behind The Melody. This album was a great way to start off the year, and I can foresee in the future very few R&B artists will come close to this quality for 2008.