Raheem DeVaughn – Love Behind the Melody
Jive Records (01/15/08)
R&B / Neo-Soul
It’s really hard to get a handle on the Grammy-nominated talents of the self-professed “R&B hippie neo-soul rockstar”, Raheem DeVaughn. Love Behind the Melody is actually his second release, coming about 2½ years after his debut effort, The Love Experience. DeVaughn has worked with some of the most respected talents in the industry and, despite moving a respectable 250,000 units of his first album, this is something of a re-introduction to the masses.
“Woman” is the first single and it’s a positive, radio-friendly ode to all the broads out there. The problem with it—and many of the songs here—is that it’s a little simplistic, lyrically. Think of it as a decidedly 2008 take on the rudimentary wordplay from two or three soul generations ago.
It’s certainly better than the execrable “Customer”, which sets back the genre a few hundred years on its own. I’m not sure who thought the fast-food analogies were a good fit for what’s ostensibly a love song, but come the hell on, Raheem:
“If you wanna super size, with some lovin’ on the side”?!
And, yes, you can “even call your order in”, cuz Raheem’s “open 24/7”. Now imagine this all over four l-o-n-g minutes and you’ll feel my pain.
Another obvious misstep is “Friday (Shut the Club Down)”, which samples the legendary Temptations song “My Girl”. Really, did Otis Williams and the crew need the check? It’s as bad as you’d expect a classic ’60s track to sound with a nod to the theme of Johnny’s Kemp’s cheesy ’80s hit “Just Got Paid”.
Credit where it’s due: there are a couple of guest spots that manage to lift the material a bit. Floetry does what she can on “Marathon”, even though R&B singers like DeVaughn are just as annoying as rappers—albeit cleaner—when discussing their hours and hours of libido power. Outkast’s Big Boi is OK on “Energy”, while DeVaughn actually steps it up a bit in his own right.
DeVaughn would’ve been well served to target an audience that had actually graduated high school, as his voice is occasionally outstanding. His lyrics aren’t ever any more than average, while at other times they drop down to juvenile. Make no mistake: Raheem DeVaughn is unquestionably talented. The hope here is that the results one day match that talent.