Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
R&B / Soul
Raphael Saadiq has been in the mainstream game for close to 20 years, yet he’s consistently flown under the commercial radar as a solo artist. It’s insane to think that Tony! Toni! Toné! might be a lasting legacy, but since that group disbanded, Saadiq’s done some great production work, garnered a few Grammy nods and you still can’t name five songs he’s been on.
Go ahead and try… I’ll even spot you that one with Naked D’Angelo off of the Voodoo album.
Saadiq is back with his fourth (really?!) studio release in The Way I See It. It’s a risky, quasi-concept album that is distinctive for its obvious nods to the ’60s and ’70s. When one of the thirteen tracks works, it can be an interesting and eclectic listen. The scratchy guitar lends some breezy nostalgia on “Sure Hope You Mean It”. The anthemic rhythms of “Keep Marchin'” could’ve been predictable filler, but it succeeds as a song that could’ve come from any record player in the country 40 years ago.
The crazy amount of layering between horns and keyboards on “Big Easy” will undoubtedly lead to countless lazy comparisons to Mardi Gras from other reviewers, but they’d be accurate in their collective assessments. I wish the Spanish vibe that opens “Calling” would’ve stuck around, but the fact that it left me wanting for more is a good thing.
Unfortunately, there is an equal amount of songs that miss the mark and almost all of them have one concept in common—”whiny, lonesome brutha who’s looking for love”.
Joss Stone pops up on “Just One Kiss”, which is essentially the same song as “Love That Girl”, “Oh, Girl” and “Let’s Take a Walk”. I love the ladies as much as anyone else, but this much begging ain’t been seen since Boyz II Men were still relevant.
And, the odd high-profile guest spots are empty appearance fees for the artists involved. Jay-Z stops by for the remix to “Oh, Girl” and Stevie Wonder is almost invisible on “Never Give You Up”.
Credit to Saadiq for daring to be different here. In an age where Akon and T-Pain are considered the heirs to the R&B throne, it’s refreshing to hear someone break away from the voice box. But “different” isn’t always “listenable,” and Saadiq would do well to spread the subject matter around on his next album, so that we could better appreciate his all-around talent.
Tags: Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, T-Pain