Some R&B girl groups are family. Others spend years touring smoky nightclubs until they get their big break. And still others are formed by an egomaniac during an absurd reality show (you know who you are). But the four members of Electrik Red found another way to the front of the stage – by starting in the back of it. All of Red’s lovely ladies are former back-up dancers, strutting their respective stuff behind the likes of Ciara and Usher before The-Dream agreed to take them under his production umbrella and help turn them into …
DJBooth Album Review
Just a year after signing with Def Jam, Electrik Red has released their debut album How to Be a Lady: Volume 1. While Kyndra, Naomi, Lesley and Sarah like to say that they’re “bringing a new age woman to the world,” they’re really part of a long line of female musicians to wield their sexuality like a weapon. Madonna laid down the blueprint, groups like En Vogue mastered the R&B element, and the Pussycat Dolls brought it into the new millennium. In fact, the Dolls are the most direct comparison to Electrik Red: both are lead by charismatic front women, both are dancers first and singers second, and both have inspired personal fantasies involving a ski lodge, a blizzard and plenty of hot chocolate. But there is one crucial difference: Electrik is guided by the golden touch of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, giving How to Be a Lady an element of musical adventurousness other girl groups have only hoped to achieve.
Case in point, Drink in My Cup. Drink is the album’s lead single, an electronically pounding affair reminiscent of Love vs. Money’s best moments that can only truly be appreciated at full volume. A track like this demands an overflow of swagger, and Electrik Red impressively delivers (minus a mediocre quasi-rap breakdown). I can’t front, I f**king love me some Drink In My Cup. Speaking of obscenities, W.F.Y. isn’t as musically effective as Drink, but it’s certainly attention grabbing. A female-centric version of O.P.P. for 2009, W.F.Y. is more than a song, it’s a manifesto for Electrik’s aggressively empowered sexual agenda, a theme that gets hammered home repeatedly on How to Be a Lady. In fact, a little variety would have gone a long way, most notably on P is for Power. On a purely musical level P is for Power is easily the album’s standout, spinning a heavy percussion line into a chorus that could be a revolutionary African chant – if it wasn’t a p**sy acronym. I understand fighting fire with fire, but come on ladies, even I occasionally think about something other than sex.
Notably, How to Be a Lady doesn’t contain a single pure ballad, a wise move considering none of the ladies are powerhouse singers, and a ballad would only expose their weakness. There’s nothing wrong with playing to your strengths. However, much like their mentors they do revel in the mid-tempo jam, starting with the poppy So Good. So Good is the album’s most overt bid for radio play, bouncing along on a bright bass line and bringing Red’s usually boiling hot lyrics to a simmer. It’s a perfectly enjoyable track, but not a very memorable one, even with a Lil Wayne verse thrown in on the remix. Much better is the breathy 9 to 5, a track with shades of Janet Jackson and even doo-wop, or the smoldering baby-maker Go Shawty, the closest the album comes to a ballad. I’m not saying Electrik Red’s a female version of Jodeci, I’m just saying you should cancel any vacation plans nine months from now before throwing on Go Shawty.
Seeing the word “Shawty” reminds me of my biggest question going into this album: how much of How to Be a Lady is The-Dream and how much is Electrik Red? The truth is it’s impossible to figure out where the production ends and the group begins, and honestly I don’t care. How to Be a Lady doesn’t try to be anything but sexually-charged fun, and on that level it succeeds. But if Electrik Red is going to get to that next level, and there’s every indication they can, they’re going to have to develop a stronger identity by the time Volume 2 rolls out. In the meantime, I highly recommend How to Be a Lady becomes the official soundtrack for VH1’s Charm School. You’re welcome Electrik Red – that will be 10 percent.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/27/09
Radio Killa/Def Jam
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Drank in My Cup" (2008)
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