Jump to content

Crisis's Music Box


Crisis
 Share

Recommended Posts

10850-retro-105-white-lights.jpg f1da8577-ad29-43ce-be7f-1157be3d0a94_1.b9adcee7730723a0ccd07994203f8ba3.png vector-modern-music-background.jpg 4288501cv12d.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

 

Welcome to Crisis’s Music Box! As the title suggests, I will be writing about music here. The thread will mostly be me writing about my favorite artists and discussing their discographies. In addition, I’ll write about some of my favorite albums from artists who may not have extensive discographies or random artists who catch my interest. Finally, I may take some requests from anyone who would like to read my opinions on some of their favorite artists and/or albums.

 

Before getting started, I’ll share some background information about me regarding music. My favorite genres are R&B, hip-hop/rap, and rock. I mostly grew up on R&B and hip hop, and I came to love rock when I dabbled with a few instruments. Hence, there is a high chance most of the albums and artists I discuss in this thread will be from those three genres. In addition, I like instrumental music such as jazz/smooth jazz; however, I won’t be talking about those. The one genre that took me the longest to get into was country. I used to be so anti-country it wasn’t even funny, but I have come to gradually appreciate it over the years. With that said, I became more interested in country upon watching American Idol. If there’s anything to take from this, while I do have my preferences, I’m open-minded when it comes to music and will give almost anything a chance. :yes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’ll start by talking about one of my favorite albums:

ba062654e7936b660e55b1421bd88db5e495d230r1-1500-1500v2_hq.jpg

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

 

Lauryn Hill, or Ms. Hill, is one of the most versatile music artists. She sings, raps, and writes. She showcases all of this in her only studio album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was released on August 25, 1998 and went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time. In fact, it was certified Diamond (any album that has sold at least 10 million copies) by the RIAA in 2021. In addition to this, this album was nominated for ten Grammys and won five, including the highly coveted (or it was at one point) Album of the Year Award, at the 41st annual Grammy Awards. Although there is more to talk about regarding the accolades surrounding this album, I want to get to the album itself.

 

01. Intro

Not much to say here. The intro is a skit that has a classroom setting with the teacher taking roll, only for the listeners to learn Ms. Hill was absent from class. This sets the tone for the album indicating some lessons cannot be taught in school.

 

02. Lost Ones

The first official track is a rap song about Ms. Hill lyrically dismantling someone. It is speculated if not confirmed that the person in question is none other than former Fugees bandmate and paramour Wyclef Jean. This track showcases Ms. Hill’s rap prowess as she effortlessly strings together three great verses over a simple percussion beat with minimal piano accompaniment. One of my favorite parts is the first four bars of the first verse when she raps:

 

It's funny how money changes a situation

Miscommunication leads to complication

My emancipation didn’t fit your equation

I was on the humble, you on every station

 

I also love the refrains she sings after the second and third choruses. The track ends with a skit describing the teacher asking students about love and some of the students’ responses. Lost Ones is a strong start to the album and is one of my favorite tracks.

 

03. Ex-Factor

Ex-Factor is one of the singles from the album; I believe it was the second one. Ms. Hill goes into singer mode here and sings a powerful song about an ex-lover, who happens to be Wyclef, the second consecutive song about him. Anyway, Ms. Hill sings over a gloomy piano background (as an aside, this is a song I want to learn how to play), and the emotions she displays are palpable. If there was a part that epitomizes what the song is about, it’s the third verse:

 

I keep letting you back in

How can I explain myself?

As painful as this thing has been

I just can’t be with no one else

 

I could highlight the other parts, but we’d be here all day and besides, there are the other tracks to talk about. Other highlights are the breakdown and the guitar solo at the end. Overall, Ex-Factor is another highlight from the album.

 

04. To Zion

Next is a song that shockingly isn’t about Wyclef. Rather, it’s a song about another prominent male in her life: her first son Zion (hence the name of the track). Ms. Hill sings about the feelings she experienced both during pregnancy and post-birth over a lovely guitar instrumental played by the incomparable Carlos Santana. The verses are well-written with a nice rhyming pattern, and Ms. Hill’s vocals does them justice. My favorite part is the beginning of the second verse when she sings:

 

How beautiful if nothing more

Than to wait at Zion's door

I've never been in love like this before

Now let me pray to keep you from

The perils that will surely come

See life for you, my prince has just begun

 

Outside of that, I love the outro when she and the background singers combine and send the track off in a spiritual way before launching into another classroom skit. I don’t have any children of my own, so I can’t relate to the track directly. However, that doesn’t mean this track doesn’t hit me emotionally. This is the most moving track on the album and one of the best overall.

 

05. Doo Wop (That Thing)

Ms. Hill returns to rapping with this single. Doo Wop (That Thing) was the lead single from the album, and what a lead single it was! Here, Ms. Hill raps about how both sexes need to understand the value they bring (self-worth for the women and growing up for the men). She does this over a sample of the song Together Let’s Find Love by the 5th Dimension. It’s difficult to pick a favorite part, but here it is:

 

You know I only say it 'cause I'm truly genuine

Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem

Baby girl, respect is just a minimum

****** ****** up and you still defending 'em

Now, Lauryn is only human

Don't think I haven't been through the same predicament

 

It encapsulates the message she’s sending to women while simultaneously emphasizing with them. In addition, the chorus is catchy and fun to sing along with. The album version ends with another classroom skit, which is my favorite one. Finally, the song made history by becoming the first debut single to reach #1 on the Billboard chart. Doo Wop (That Thing) is yet another gem on the album and perhaps the most recognizable one.

 

06. Superstar

Superstar is a song about Ms. Hill believing music is supposed to be about expression, yet she feels artists forgot about that and only make music for commercial success. She sings and raps over a beat with minimal guitar and a prominent bassline. My favorite part is the chorus:

 

Come on baby light my fire

Everything you drop is so tired

Music is supposed to inspire

How come we ain’t gettin’ no higher

 

In addition, I enjoyed the second verse and the rapping part. I liked the song’s message and feels it is still relevant today. This track is not as grand as some of the other tracks, especially the four that preceded it, but it is still one of my favorites and fits in with the album well.

 

07. Final Hour

Final Hour is the last pure rap track on the album. Ms. Hill raps about how material things mean little in the long run, for the only thing that matter comes Judgment Day is how people live their lives and what their principles are. This is all over a beat with an eclectic assortment of instruments including drums, flute, and trumpets. My favorite part is the beginning of the second verse:

 

I'm about to change the focus from the richest to the brokest

I wrote this opus, to reverse the hypnosis

Whoever's closest to the line's gonna win it

You gonna fall trying to ball while my team win the pennant

I'm about to begin it, for a minute, then run for senate

Make a slum lord be repentant, give his money to kids to spend it

And then amend it, every law that ever prevented

Our survival since our arrival documented in The Bible

 

Ms. Hill’s subject matter and rhyme scheme can go over people’s heads; heck, I’ve listened to this song many times, and there are some lines I still have a hard time comprehending. This is Ms. Hill lyrically at her finest on the album, and one of the best overall tracks.

 

08. When It Hurts So Bad

When It Hurts So Bad is a song about someone putting in the effort to make a relationship work, but her partner doesn’t reciprocate the effort or feelings. It is sung over a mournful beat carried by a somber bass line and minimal guitar accompaniment. My favorite part is when she sings these lines in the second verse:

 

Gave up my power, I existed for you

But whoever knew, the voo-doo you’d do

 

Especially how she sings power. Ms. Hill sounded like she was going through something in this song. With that said, the one thing I have to say about this is it stylistically sounds like Ex-Factor at parts, particularly in the chorus. Despite that, When It Hurts So Bad is a solid song albeit not one of my absolute favorites from the album.

 

09. I Used to Love Him (ft. Mary J. Blige)

This song is Ms. Hill and Mary singing about a particular person they loved but realized through a higher power this person wasn’t right for them. This is a splendid duet between two powerhouse singers over a background of vocal and hip-hop elements. I love the second and third verses when they exchange lines; however, my favorite is when they sang:

 

Thought what I wanted was something I needed

When momma said no then I just should have heeded

Misled I bled 'till the poison was gone

And out of the darkness arrived the sweet dawn

 

The two voices complemented one another, and this was a subject the two have a lot of experience in. The lyrics are creative and went well with the melodies. This is one of the strongest non-single tracks on the album from two royalties in the R&B/hip-hop genre.

 

10. Forgive Them Father (feat. Shelly Thunder)

Forgive Them Father is a reggae inspired tune about people who use others for their own selfish ambitions. Seeing that the music samples Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle, it makes sense for it to have that reggae flavor. Ms. Hill drops a rap verse here after the previous two songs didn’t have any rapping. With that said, my favorite lines are in the third verse:

 

A friend once said, and I found to be true

That everyday people, they lie to God too

So what makes you think, that they won't lie to you?

 

Those lines really hit close to home. In addition, dancehall artist Shelly Thunder added some nice input with both the intro and a short verse in the end. The track concludes with another classroom skit discussing love. This is a nice track with a strong subject matter and although not one of my absolute favorites, is one I enjoy listening to.

 

11. Every Ghetto, Every City

This is an upbeat track about Ms. Hill reminiscing about her childhood in her hometown of South Orange, New Jersey. After the previous three tracks, it was good to have something more upbeat. She does this singing/rapping hybrid throughout the track, especially in the third and fourth verses. The catchiest part of the song is the refrain:

 

You know it’s hot

Don’t forget what you got

Looking back, looking back, looking back, looking back

 

The track concludes with another classroom skit, and by this time I lose interest in them; fortunately, it’s the last one. Regardless, Every Ghetto, Every City is another solid track and one that can bring childhood nostalgia whether good or bad.

 

12. Nothing Even Matters (feat. D’Angelo)

A duet between the two singers singing about being so much in love any outside force has no effect on their bond whatsoever. It is sung over a soft piano beat and finger snapping percussion. The way the two trade verses are well done. Although all the verses were nice, my favorite part is the ending where the two ad-lib. To be honest, this is the track that grew on me the most. I didn’t dislike the track, but it was one I wasn’t going out of my way to listen to repeatedly. Over the years, however, I began to appreciate it more. With that said, I still prefer the other songs on this album, but this isn’t skippable by any means.

 

13. Everything is Everything

The final single released from the album, Everything is Everything is an up-tempo song about the struggles youths in inner city America deal with and the pleading of helping them overcome said struggles. Ms. Hill sings and raps over a hard-hitting piano track (which I recently learned was played by John Legend before he was widely known). The rap verse was solid, but my favorite part is the last verse, especially these lines:

 

Let's love ourselves and we can't fail

To make a better situation (Better situation, uh-uh)

Tomorrow, our seeds will grow (Tomorrow, our seeds will grow)

All we need is dedication

 

While Everything is Everything is my least favorite of the singles, it’s still a great song and another highlight from the album.

 

14. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

At its original release, this was the closing track to the album. The title track is a somber and soulful piano ballad about Ms. Hill learning that some of the answers she seeks are within herself. There aren’t a lot of lyrics like the other songs, but it still gets the job done. My favorite part is the second verse; I’ll post the whole verse since it’s so short:

 

I look at my environment

And wonder where the fire went

What happened to everything we used to be

I hear so many cry for help

Searching outside of themselves

Now I know that His strength is within me

 

This would’ve been the perfect way to end the album, but there were two additional tracks added in subsequent releases. Nonetheless, this is a great song despite its brevity and a standout track on the overall album.

 

15. Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You

The first extra track is the cover of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons classic. Ms. Hill brought an R&B/hip-hop flare to the track, not unlike what she did with Killing Me Softly off the Fugees’ The Score album. I’m more partial to the original version; however, Ms. Hill did a respectable job. The beatboxing was a nice touch and gave it the hip-hop flavor. In addition, the vocals were on point. With that said, the one criticism I have is that the song wasn’t as passionate as it could’ve been. Ms. Hill could’ve added more emotion to the track. Nevertheless, Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You is a solid extra track.

 

16. Tell Him

The final extra track is a mid-tempo ballad about Ms. Hill singing about her love for someone. Based on the lyrics, it is thought she is singing to a higher deity, and I am of that opinion. However, there are some opinions she is singing about another lover. Regardless, it is a beautiful song over a guitar and bass background, and the background singers do a great job adding another dimension. My favorite part is the third verse when she sings:

 

Now I may have wisdom (I may have wisdom)

And knowledge on Earth

But if I speak wrong, ooh, then what is it worth? (What is it worth?)

See what we now know is nothing compared

To the love that was shown when our lives were spared (Uuh)

And tell him (Tell him)

 

Overall, Tell Him is one of the strongest songs on the album and is a great way to close the album as a bonus track if the title track couldn’t do it.

 

Overall Ranking: 5/5

This is a well-crafted album from beginning to end. I am of the belief there is no such thing as a perfect album, but this comes close. There are albums I enjoy that have tracks I skip immediately when they come on (there may be some I’ll review in this thread); however, this is one of the few albums I can listen to without skipping a single track. There are some songs I enjoy more than others but nothing that makes me want to channel my inner Ariana Grande and say, “thank u, next”. Ms. Hill did a great job creating an album centered around love and self-respect, and it was easy to tell she was going through a lot around the time the album was recorded. I’m not the only one who thinks highly about this album. Here are some ratings from professional publishers:

 

Allmusic: 5 stars

EW: A

Pitchfork: 9.5/10

Sputnikmusic: 4.5/5

XXL: 5/5

 

It’s too bad Ms. Hill didn’t record another album outside of an MTV Unplugged one (I may or may not review that one down the road). Then again, having her only studio album being one of this caliber cements her legacy in an odd way. Nonetheless, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a great album and is one of my Top 10 favorite albums overall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, thevoiceisthetop said:

First time listening to this and I thought this was a great album

 

 

My top 3 is Ex-Factor, Doo-Wop, the miseducation of Lauryn Hill

 

Good to see this was enjoyed!

 

Those are as good as a Top 3 as any! :yes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After much consideration, I've decided on the first artist to showcase:

b2805f225c9f50355ef5efc18eeb1eec.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Amel Larrieux

 

Amel Larrieux is a R&B/neo-soul/jazz singer and songwriter. She made her debut in the mid 90s as one half of the R&B duo Groove Theory. She then became an independent solo artist in the 2000s. She is someone whose artistry I have always enjoyed. I like her subject matter and her approach to music. In addition, she has a really pretty voice which while on the softer side, has an underrated range, plus she isn't very hard on the eyes herself. She hasn't released any new music since 2013, but I still listen to her music to this day. She has one album as a member of Groove Theory and five solo albums. I will talk about them in this thread starting with the Groove Theory album.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

crop_480x480_118196.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Groove Theory

 

Groove Theory was the duo of Amel Larrieux and former Mantronix member Bryce Wilson. Larrieux did the singing and Wilson handled most of the production. The self-titled album is the only album released by Groove Theory on October 24, 1995. It is a R&B/neo-soul album with some hip hop influences. The album peaked at number 69 on the US Billboard Chart. It was certified gold by the RIAA in October 1996.

 

01. 10 Minute High

The album starts with a somber track about a teenager who had a rough life due to a broken home. As a result, she used drugs to help her escape. As the title implies, she'd get high ten minutes at a time. Unfortunately, the drugs took a toll on her, which resulted in her looking older than her years and eventually dying from an overdose on her eighteenth birthday. Larrieux absolutely sells the story with her voice, and the song itself is easy to follow. For the former, it’s easy to hear the disappointment and sympathy when Larrieux sings. The highlight of the track is the bridge. It’s a great way to start the album despite the depressing subject.

 

02. Time Flies

After the depressing opening track, Time Flies is a somewhat brighter track about reuniting with someone from the past for a while before having to go separate ways. The song itself is open to interpretation. The two people could be old friends or lovers; the song doesn’t imply how the two know each other. Larrieux approaches the subject with delicate optimism, as if the two will cross paths again despite seeing each other for the first time in a while. The highlights of the track are the pre-chorus and bridge. The chorus, while simple, is catchy. This is a solid follow up to change the mood of the album at this point.

 

03. Ride

Ride is about the protagonist wanting to escape her mundane life with her partner, both literally and figuratively. This is not one of the stronger tracks on the album. Larrieux sounded great as usual; however, the song doesn’t go anywhere. There isn’t anything interesting to keep the listener hooked on it. If there is something positive about the track, it’s that it has a nice chorus. With everything said, however, Ride is a track that won’t be skipped if the album is playing from beginning to end; it’s just not one to go out of the way to listen to individually.

 

04. Come Home

Things pick up with the next track. Come Home is about someone who is trying to convince someone she cares about who is caught up in the street life to leave that lifestyle behind because the streets will not love said person like the singer. The message is a great one because there have been far too many times people chase that life only to have nothing to show for themselves in the end. Larrieux has a good approach in singing this song. Instead of insulting the person, she pleads with said person there is something better at home. Come Home is one of the better tracks on the album because of the way the subject matter is approached.

 

05. Baby Luv

Baby Luv is an upbeat song about love in general. At first, it was thought this song was about Larrieux’s eldest daughter. However, there is speculation that this is about a lover. As with Time Flies, this song is open to interpretation. Nonetheless, it’s a bright song both singing and production wise. It stands out due to its brightness, yet it fits with the rest of the album’s overall vibe. Once again Larrieux’s vocals stand out and bring life to this song, especially in the chorus. Overall, Baby Luv is a solid track that has its place on the album.

 

06. Tell Me

I've been doing my own thing

Love has always had a way of having bad timing

 

Anyone who listened to R&B radio in the mid-90s should be familiar with this song. Tell Me is the lead single from the album and is Groove Theory’s most well-known song. This song was just about everywhere when it dropped. It’s a simple song about a woman expressing her feelings to a guy she has a crush on. Larrieux sings her tail off on this song and does a great job conveying the proper emotions. The main highlight was the bridge followed by Trey Lorenz and Larrieux exchanging lines. Tell Me is a huge highlight on the album and it’s easy to see why it is Groove Theory’s biggest hit.

 

07. Hey U

This song is about someone reaching out to a former lover after the relationship ended with open questions. It seems like the singer laments the way the relationship ended and wants to reach out to see how her ex is doing and perhaps have some closure. The song isn’t terrible, but it isn’t one of the stronger tracks on the album. For starters, the mixing seems off; however, a viable reason for this could be the song giving off the vibe of the singer being on the phone. Regardless, when thinking about the album, Hey U is not a song that immediately comes to mind.

 

08. Hello It’s Me

Hello It’s Me is a song that was originally written as a slow ballad by Todd Rundgren in 1968 while a member of the band Nazz. Rundgren re-recorded it as a solo artist in 1972 as a mid-tempo track. It has been covered many times in the subsequent years, with The Isley Brothers’ 1974 version perhaps being the most well-known. Groove Theory did a cover of their own on the album, and their version takes after The Isley Brothers. Hello It’s Me is a song about a breakup and the singer wishing his/her ex a happy life afterwards. Larrieux does the song justice and she does a great job keeping the essence of the Isley Brothers’ version intact. All in all, Hello It’s Me is a highlight.

 

09. Good 2 Me

Good 2 Me is a song about a woman wondering if her partner will be faithful to her and if she can rely on him through the tough times. Despite the song’s nature, it has a cheery vibe that can be catchy, especially in the chorus. Larrieux again does a great job of getting the message across, and her sincerity can be heard throughout the song. It may not be as lyrically dense as some of the other songs on the track, but it still serves its purpose. Good 2 Me is a catchy song that is easy to vibe to.

 

10. Angel

Angel is a mid-tempo track about a guy who was a player with the women meeting the one woman he became genuinely smitten with. In other words, this woman was an angel who fell from the sky in his eyes. This is an enjoyable song that gives hope that there is someone out there who can change anyone’s life in a positive way. Larrieux sings the song well as usual, and the production gives it a cheery atmosphere. As with Good 2 Me, Angel isn’t the most lyrical song, but it does enough to portray the point it tries to get across. Another solid track from the album overall.

 

11. Keep Tryin’

Keep Tryin’ is the second single from the album. It’s an uplifting song about never giving up on goals no matter the situation. It has a more laid-back nature compared to the previous two songs. Nonetheless, the message is great and something anyone can listen to. It doesn’t hurt that Larrieux sings this song effortlessly beautiful. Also, the simplistic production does a great job of not overshadowing the song so it’s message can be clearly heard. Although Tell Me is the most well-known single, there is thought this song is the better single. Regardless, Keep Tryin’ is another highlight from the album.

 

12. You’re Not the 1

This is a rather interesting song. It’s about a woman leaving a man because he wouldn’t fully commit, only to have said man try to come back in her life after learning she moved on with someone else. This is the most aggressive Larrieux sounded on the album, yet the sweet quality of her voice still comes out. The hard-hitting production fits well with Larrieux’s acerbic vocals. Because of everything mentioned, this is the song that jumps out the most because of its contrasting nature. Nevertheless, it is still a great song and one of the standouts on the album.

 

13. Didja Know

After the previous track, the album gets back on course with Didja Know. It’s about someone who was reticent to love again after having her heart broken, only for someone else to come into her life and give her a second lease on love. It is a solid song that has some good qualities, and Larrieux does a solid job with the storytelling as usual. However, this is not a song that can be considered a standout. There is something that prevents it from being up there with some of the other tracks. Nonetheless, Didja Know is a solid song that goes with the album.

 

14. Boy at the Window

The album starts with a cautionary tale about a young girl; it ends with a cautionary tale about a young boy. Boy at the Window is about a boy who is neglected by his father throughout his life, so he seeks love and acceptance elsewhere – mainly the streets – only for him to end up in prison. This is a song that had to be listened to a few times to really understand the whole picture. Larrieux again sells the song well and while it doesn’t have quite the sadness of 10 Minute High, there is still some sympathy and lament at how everything ended. It is one of the more emotionally gripping songs on the album. It is interesting that the bookends of the album are 10 Minute High and Boy at the Window.

 

Overall: 4.4/5

 

Other Rankings:

Allmusic: 4 out of 5 stars

Pitchfork: 7.7/10

 

Favorite Tracks:

10 Minute High

Come Home

Tell Me

Angel

Keep Tryin'

You're Not the 1

Boy at the Window

 

Groove Theory’s self-titled album was a very solid debut. The combination of Larrieux’s pure vocals and Wilson’s soulful production blended well together like peanut butter and jelly. The production didn’t overpower the singing and enhanced Larrieux’s storytelling. What prevented this album from a five ranking was there were a few songs that not while terrible, dragged the album down some (Ride, Hey U). Regardless, this is a very good album and worth checking out for anyone interested in R&B/neo-soul. It’s unfortunate this was the only Groove Theory album released because Larrieux and Wilson made a great team. There was supposed to be another Groove Theory album titled The Answer with a different singer, but that album was unfortunately shelved. Nonetheless, Larrieux went on to have a solid solo career, which is the direction this thread is heading to next.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

R-1368463-1487461338-8865.jpeg.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Amel Larrieux - Infinite Possibilities

 

Infinite Possibilities, Amel Larrieux’s solo debut album, was released on February 15, 2000 through 550 Music and distributed by Epic Records. The album peaked at number twenty-one on the U.S. R&B Albums chart and number seventy-nine on the Billboard 200 chart. Like her work with Groove Theory, it is R&B/neo-soul; however, there is a different vibe compared to the Groove Theory album.

 

01. Get Up

Get Up is the opening track and lead single from the album. Larrieux sings about living life despite the obstacles that may get in the way over a strong bassline and electric piano. In addition, there is some scatting throughout the song – mostly at the beginning and in the end – giving the song a bit of a jazz feel. The song has a great message and is a great option for the lead single. It is a solid way to start the album.

 

02. I N I

The second track is about being true to oneself and not conform to what society believes is ideal. In the first verse, Larrieux sings about the beauty standard, which in this case is blond hair and blue eyes. The second verse deals with religion, Christianity in particular. The song is sung over a simplistic piano beat with some extra sound effects in the chorus. I N I is another track in which the message is one worth listening to, and one of the strongest tracks on the album.

 

03. Sweet Misery

After the first two tracks, the third one takes on a more somber note. Sweet Misery is the second single from the album. It is a song about being in love with someone who wasn’t true. The emotions Larrieux convey in this track are palpable, especially in the end. It is clear this person is going through something and wants to rid herself of these feelings but is unable to. It is sung over a simple bass and percussion background, which helps bring the message out. All in all, a very good track.

 

04. Searching for My Soul

Searching for My Soul is a track about losing faith because of the bad things that are happening. Larrieux does an OK job of selling the feeling; however, more could’ve been done. It didn’t have to be completely emotional, but more feeling would’ve helped the track. Overall, this track is in the middle of the pack regarding the rest of the album.

 

05. Even If

Even If is a ballad about someone having no regrets about loving a special someone in her life. Who that someone could be is up to interpretation because Larrieux did not explicitly mention who the song is about. This is a nice song that showcases the softness and beauty in Larrieux’s voice, especially in the chorus. Lastly, she does a nice job of bringing the message home in the outro. Even If is a solid ballad and would’ve been the best had it not been for another one (spoiler).

 

06. Infinite Possibilities

Here is the title track. Infinite Possibilities is about a young man who has potential to be someone great, with the main thing holding him back is himself. He has to make the right decisions in order to fulfill said potential. For the title track, the song could’ve been better. It would’ve been better off for the target to be plural instead of singular. The track isn’t terrible sonically – it is very good – but like the young man in the song, it had the potential to be something better.

 

07. Shine

Shine is a track about being burned in the past but emerging from the fire as a stronger person. The track has a futuristic feel production wise, and Larrieux’s voice and the subject matter blended well with said production. The best part of the song is the chorus, for it’s fun to sing along to and it drives the message of the song home. To make a bad pun, this song lives up to its name and is one of the album’s highlights.

 

08. Down

Down is a track about a woman lamenting a man to enter her life only for him to use her and leave. The song has a jazz-blues feel with both the piano driven production and rueful lyrics. What makes this track stand out is the buildup. It starts off well enough, but the despair increases with each verse until it feels like the woman gives in to her situation. Overall, Down is a track that doesn’t drag the album down and fits like a well-tailored suit.

 

09. Weather

Weather is a track about appreciating the seasons and using them to get through what may be trying times. It appears the song is going for a more optimistic feel; however, it doesn’t quite reach the mark. With that said, the song has a few positives such as it fitting in with the album’s overall vibe and Larrieux’s daughter singing along with her at the end. Weather is an OK track, but it’s not one of the stronger ones.

 

10. Make Me Whole

The closing track of Infinite Possibilities is a piano-driven ballad about finding that special someone who becomes a huge part of someone’s life. It is the best ballad on the album. Larrieux does a wonderful job selling the lyrics and emotion of the song. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if this song was played at weddings because it would certainly be fitting. Make Me Whole is one of the best songs on the album, and it’s a great choice for the album closer.

 

Overall: 4/5

 

Other Rankings:

Allmusic: 3 out of 5 stars

Entertainment Weekly: B+

 

Favorite Tracks:

Get Up

I N I

Shine

Down

Make Me Whole

 

Amel Larrieux’s Infinite Possibilities is a good debut. The sound is drastically different from her Groove Theory days, but it did a good job establishing her style as a solo artist. Gone are the hip-hop elements and in their place are more jazz elements, especially the scatting in some of her songs and a near pure jazz song (Down). There were a few tracks that while they had good concepts, the execution wasn’t quite on point. Nonetheless, it’s still a good album overall and worth checking out if you’re an R&B/neo-soul fan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bravebird.jpg

Amel Larrieux - Bravebird

 

Amel Larrieux released her second album Bravebird on January 20, 2004, almost four years after her solo debut. Larrieux released and distributed the album independently from Blisslife Records, the label she and her husband Laru Larrieux founded. The album peaked at number 166 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, which is not too bad for an independent album. Larrieux continued down the R&B/neo-soul path with this release.

 

01. For Real

Bravebird begins with the lead single For Real. It’s a simple love song about Larrieux singing the praises of a special someone in her life. The way she sings the song, however, is anything but simple. The way Larrieux goes through her registers along with the poetic lyrics is nothing short of exquisite. The highlight of the song is her going into her upper register while transitioning from the bridge to the final chorus. Finally, the song starts off cutely with her daughter singing what would be the chorus. All in all, For Real is a great start to the album.

 

02. Bravebird

Things take a turn on the second track. The title track is about some girls who went through something horrible in their lives (genital mutilation) but continue to live with the best of intentions. Larrieux approaches the track with the right amount of sensitivity required while vividly telling the story of the girls’ tribulations. In an interview with Barnes & Noble, Larrieux said she got the inspiration for the song from reading a story in a magazine about someone who survived genital mutilation. It is certainly a thought-provoking track and one of the strongest on the album.

 

03. Dear to Me

Dear to Me has the album returning to the energy it had on the first track. It is yet another song about a special someone. In this case, however, Larrieux seems to be offering encouragement to a person who may not realize how special Larrieux thinks he/she is. From the way she sings the song, this person definitely has had an impact on Larrieux’s life. There aren’t many lyrics in this song, but they get the job done efficiently. Dear to Me is not in the upper echelon of the strongest tracks on Bravebird; it’s about a rung below the top step.

 

04. All I Got

Things get funky with the fourth track All I Got. All I Got is a song about making the best with what you already have. The message of the song is a strong one because it shows that although we may have what we want, we have everything we need in order to be the people we want to be. It doesn’t hurt that the song is sung over a guitar with a strong effect (perhaps wah-wah) giving the track some serious attitude. Speaking of such, Larrieux displays some attitude of her own while singing the song. All I Got is a highlight on the album and may be the overall favorite.

 

05. Beyond

Beyond is the first ballad to appear on the album. It is a song about how large and wide a person’s love is, and that nothing will be able to contain it. Speaking of love, the recipient of said love is up for interpretation. The song does a great job getting the message across with the lyrics and the way Larrieux sings it. The best thing about the track, however, is how it gradually builds up to the strong finish, where Larrieux really puts her stamp. The song may not be as creative as some of the others on the album, but it’s a very good track and may be the most underrated one.

 

06. We Can Be New

We Can Be New is a nice mid-tempo track about a woman who was hurt by someone she loved and fears it as a result. However, she comes across someone who wants to show her love is nothing to fear with the right person. It is a splendid track with Larrieux’s voice shining through both technically and emotionally. Once again Larrieux does a great job building up the song, this time up to the point where the woman is optimistic love is again something worthy to have. We Can Be New is another strong track on the album and one that shines a new light.

 

07. Giving Something Up

Giving Something Up is a funk driven track about women who are stuck raising and providing for their kids on their own because the fathers are not doing anything and are out there messing around with other women. The concept was a nice idea; however, the execution wasn’t quite right. Larrieux is a strong storyteller, but the stories in this song were lacking. This is especially disappointing since the subject is a great one to talk about. The main highlight is the bridge. Giving Something Up is the most disappointing track because it had so much potential to be better.

 

08. Your Eyes

The album takes a turn from the funky hard-driven Giving Something Up to the more serene ballad Your Eyes. Your Eyes is a song about how someone feels when someone else looks at him/her. The song is relatively simple, in that there are no huge moments or gradual buildup. However, this isn’t a bad thing because not every track has to have those two things. Speaking of simple, the instrumentation is exactly that, and it’s a good thing because it allows the lyrics to stand out. Your Eyes is a subtle gem on the album, and it in some way segues nicely into the next track.

 

09. Congo

Congo is an up-tempo track about wanting to visit the place where the ancestors originated from. The song is sung gracefully over an electric guitar beat, and Larrieux’s lyrics do a great job discussing the subject at hand. Going back to the segue part, the instrumentation in Your Eyes sounds like something that would be played in Congo; it’s the same for the music here. The catchiest part is the chorus despite its repetitiveness, especially at the end when it leads to the track fading out. Congo is another strong track and one of the most replayed ones.

 

10. Sacred

Sacred is a simple acoustic guitar ballad where Larrieux sings about some of the things that are on her mind such as the celebrity worship, double standards when it comes to boys and girls, and racial profiling, just to name a few. The song is beautifully and softly sung outside of a couple of parts where she displays some glory notes. This is a song that grew slowly with each listen, for it was not a song that immediately came to mind when thinking about the album. Overall, Sacred is a good song that can lead to some serious and provoking thoughts.

 

11. Say You Want It All

The penultimate track of the album is a somewhat funky track about inspiring artists who want to get into the music industry, which comes with some compromises. Larrieux sings some serious truths over another effect electric guitar beat. The verses and pre-choruses are well layered, and the chorus is super catchy. Finally, the bridge really lays it out and gives a little advice on how to survive in the business. Say You Want It All is one of the best songs on the album and one that is replayed very often when listening to the album.

 

12. All I Got2

All I Got2 is nothing more than a redone version of the original version with a different beat and some different vocal techniques. This version is more R&B with a hip-hop influence. It works well for a bonus track and is a decent way to end the album, but there is nothing else to be said about this one.

 

Overall Ranking: 4.5/5

 

Other Rankings:

Allmusic: 4 out of 5 stars

Blender: 4 out of 5 stars

Entertainment Weekly: B-

 

Favorite Tracks:

For Real

Bravebird

All I Got

We Can Be New

Your Eyes

Congo

Say You Want It All

 

Bravebird is my personal favorite Amel Larrieux album. It isn’t as polished as Infinite Possibilities – mostly due to it being produced without the backing of a major label – but the rawness does a better job at showcasing Larrieux’s artistry. There were more liberties taken with this album production wise, but the overall product is still sonically sound. Also, it appears it was for the better for Larrieux to go independent. In an interview, she stated that her previous label wanted her to tone it down some as an artist i.e., become more commercial friendly. The right decision was made regarding that. The only nitpick about the album is that the track Giving Something Up could’ve been much stronger than it was. Despite this, Bravebird is a very solid album overall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...