Every Tuesday night a group of us, ranging from ex-college players (not me) to guys who just love the game, gather in an aging Koreatown gym to sweat and yell and ostensibly play basketball, and Big Al is one of the best. Big Al must have been a fearsome athlete in his glory days, but now in his mid-30s he simply stretches while the younger guys warm up by throwing down dunks (again, not me). A newcomer would assume Big Al’s braced knees would be a liability on the floor, but then the game starts. …
DJBooth Album Review
I’m not sure he’d take this as a compliment, but Jaheim is the Big Al of r&b. It’s been nearly a decade since the charismatic crooner made his debut with 2001’s Ghetto Love, but in an industry largely dominated by youth, Jaheim’s still balling stronger than any of them on his new album Another Round. Instead of chasing trends and teaming up with the next hot thing for a slew of club bangers, Jaheim has instead crafted his unapologetically grown and sexy game into the type of sound that may not go number one on 106 & Park, but will ensure Jaheim’s followed by legions of appreciative fans for years to come. In life, as in boxing, it’s rarely a good idea to go another round. Jaheim obviously knows something we don’t.
What is it that Jaheim does so well? Let’s start with the album’s lead single Ain’t Leavin Without You. Jaheim is obviously well schooled in the lessons taught by his classic r&b predecessors and on Ain’t Leaving he essentially lays down a r&b blueprint complete with a kinetic guitar line, a bass line that borders on funk and, of course, his always stellar voice. Let me make this real easy: if this song doesn’t make you feel good you probably don’t have a soul. Tellingly, Ain’t Leavin is far from the only song on Another Round guaranteed to get you out of your seat. Her combines pounding yet muted percussion with a soft guitar line to create an energetically mellow love song, and II Pink Lines digs back into the blues playbook for an ode to an unborn child; never has a positive pregnancy test sounded this good. Anchoring all of them are Jaheim’s vocals, which are so strong he can venture into some deeply emotional territory without worrying about sounding weak. On Another Round Jaheim is, simply, the man.
There is one notable exception to this “Jaheim is making quality old-school r&b, radio be damned” storyline, the album’s title track Another Round. A track that opens with a club-ready beat, Another Round quickly delves into tales of alcohol fueled fun – it’s basically Say Aah without the “it’s your birthday.” Another Round isn’t bad, but it does feel out of place amongst the rest of the album’s supremely smooth tales of true love and baby making. Another Round by no means ruins the album, I just wish it wasn’t there. And yes, I’m aware that my personal preferences weren’t foremost in Jaheim’s mind when he was making this album.
Back to the good stuff. Although Another Round doesn’t have a true bed burner on it Jaheim certainly knows how to slow down the pace, most notably on the extraordinary Finding My Way Back (my choice for the album’s best track) and the gospel-influenced Till It Happens to You. And as long as we’re at it I might as well throw in the retro soul Impossible and the piano driven Other Half. Now these are tracks that…you know, I was going to write that the Trey Songz and Chris Brown’s of the world should listen to Another Round and take notes – this is how you make adult music that still smokes – but this is too good for me to get distracted by such music industry considerations. Jaheim’s made a very personal album, and it deserves to be treated accordingly. In that spirit, I can only recommend you grab that special someone (literally) and throw on Another Round. Feel free to thank me later. You’re welcome.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 02/9/10
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