Who is Trey Songz? Sure we know his real name (Tremaine Neverson) and we know his astrological sign (Sagittarius), but who is he really? Is he the slim, soulful young man who we first heard on Gotta Make It? Or is he the hard-edged R&B singer who dives into a crowd and starts throwing punches at a fan? Is he a teen-sensation beloved by every thirteen-year-old girl in America, or is he a grown ass man, driving off from clubs in a Bentley with a couple model chicks in the back. I’ve been watching Trey …
DJBooth Album Review
Unfortunately, Songz’ latest album, the dynamic Ready, is also a chronicle of Songz’ multiple artist personality disorder. While Ready is undeniably the work of a blazingly talented artist, Songz mysteriously chooses to largely echo his R&B peers instead of amplifying his own voice. This willingness to follow is particularly frustrating because on raw talent alone Songz is at the top of his class. His voice is better than Mario’s, and with Chris Brown’s fall from grace there’s no reason Songz shouldn’t be the king of young R&B - except one - we don’t know who he is.
Don’t get it twisted, there’s plenty of positive notes on Ready, particularly when Songz simply lets his talent do the work. The last third of Ready takes a decided turn towards more traditional R&B and soul, allowing Songz to fully showcase his stellar vocal abilities. Songz falsetto section on the ballad Yo Side of the Bed is one of those showstopper moments, an unforgettable moment only he could pull off. Even better is the live instrumental Black Roses, a song about the death of a love affair that Songz brings alive with an emotionally charged vocal performance that’s restrained in all the right ways. I’ll even throw Does He Do It into my top tracks list. Does He Do It has a more radio-friendly vibe but doesn’t make any concessions, allowing Songz to blaze the track with a perfect blend of swagger and soul. This is the Songz I like the best, and the Songz I hope is the most like the real him.
So what am I talking about when I say Ready is sometimes an imitation album? I’m talking about Neighbors Know My Name, a track I literally thought featured R. Kelly on the first listen. There are worse things than sounding like Kells, but Songz takes it so far, imitating R. Kelly’s cadence, melody and semi-absurd lyrics, that it sounds more like a cover than an original song; a damn good cover, but a cover none-the-less. Unfortunately, Know My Name is only a hint of things to come, as Songz pulls out the R. Kelly playbook again on Panty Droppa, essentially remixes Chris Brown’s With You on I Need a Girl, does a version of Blame It on Say Aah (a fact Fabolous even acknowledges on his guest verse) and even includes the dark Successful, which, let’s be honest, is a Drake track. And that’s not even the worst part…
…I won’t even bother with the merits of LOL Smiley Face, let’s just say it’s atrocious and move on. What’s important is its inclusion on Ready. I understand the importance of reaching the teenage girl market, but how could Songz expect anyone to take him seriously as a grown man after this travesty? I expect this from Soulja Boy, but Songz dis this song at the expense of his dignity. (The same goes for you Gucci Mane. How does a man who’s been in prison do a song called LOL Smiley Face. LOL Motherf**king Smiley Face! AAAHHHHHHH!!!) Ok, sorry. I think I’ve got it out of my system.
I can already see the “you’re a hater” emails coming, and that’s fine, but if I hate, it’s only because I love. At moments, moments like the romantic Be Where You Are and the soaring Love Lost, Songz shows himself to be one of the best – no, the best - young R&B singer in the game. Sadly he has yet to truly translate all that talent into an album, largely because he still doesn’t know what it means to “sound like Trey Songz.” Is Trey Songz Ready to wear the King of R&B crown? I hope he will be someday, but not yet.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 09/2/09
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Pain In My Life ft. Trey Songz" (2006)
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