I wrote a piece a few years ago about how, on a work trip listening to my iPod playlist of male R&B vocalists, I began to appreciate that there is greater diversity within black male singers’ voices than I think is generally accepted or understood.
It’s often said that there isn’t much variety in the voices of black male singers. And there is some truth to that; that is, if you are speaking solely in terms of tone. But when you listen to Bobby Brown, Eric Benet, Tevin Campbell, Darien Brockington, R. Kelly, Donell Jones, and Tank back to back, you do hear tremendous diversity in phrasing, in the way these brothas articulate.
I thought about this when I was revisiting my favorite Ne-Yo song, “Addicted.”
There’s a defensiveness that is, paradoxically, inviting because of the way Ne-Yo uses his voice here that I find incredibly interesting. Ostensibly, the song is about (re-)establishing his bonafides as a man, but he doesn’t resort to the same kind of limited vocal posturing that one normally finds in male R&B singers. The lyric is heterosexist; the approach, less so. That tension really really works for me, particularly when you consider that there aren’t that many songs in his catalog that make use of his voice with quite this much dexterity.
I don't like it – mostly because wishing the vocals weren't run through Pro Tools prevents me from thinking much of anything else – but I don't hate it like so much music made by millennial black artists. Which is truly an accomplishment.
Latif returns after nearly a decade of false starts, mixtapes, and songwriting for other artists.
I like everything about this, even the black and white video. “One Kiss” has a very simple charm that we really don’t hear from anyone other than Ne-Yo really. You almost forget that R&B singers used to sometimes seduce with a bit more restraint. Given some of the overly sexual nature of most of Latif’s mixtape material, this is a nice change of pace for him.
Hopefully that will be enough will break Latif to a wider market. He deserves it. I always thought he was unjustly overlooked after his debut album, Love in the First, failed to kick start his career in 2003. It was a very strong album, stronger than most of the albums by the new jacks that followed in his wake.
He had that one joint on that album that I still play pretty regularly.
After the jump is a slight edit of a review of Usher’s Here I Stand – an album I have tremendous respect for, so much so that I thought was the best black pop album of 2008 – that I initially wrote for Popmatters.com a few years ago that was never published.