06 May 2008

Album Review: Keith Sweat - Just Me (2008)

R&B icon Keith Sweat returns May 6th with his 10th studio album "Just Me". After 17 years with Elektra Records, the Harlem-born singer-songwriter brings his smooth grooves to Rhino. The album opens with a song called "Somebody", built around the classic Delfonics jam "La La Means I Love You". It's a nice mid-tempo groove but what makes this song most interesting is it marks the first time Sweat sings falsetto. While he's no Philip Bailey, Sweat does a more than serviceable job with the change in vocal style. Track #2 "The Floor" is another noteworthy cut in it reunites Keith with Teddy Riley. The two collaborated on the Sweat's 1987 debut "Make It Last Forever". The milestone album sold over 3 million copies and helped launch the New Jack Swing era of the late 80s/early 90s. "The Floor" kicks off with a classic Teddy/Keith keyboard sample but then switches into something that sounds more like Riley's Blackstreet work. Solid & enjoyable song, even if it doesn't rank with the very best of Riley/Sweat collaborations. The next couple songs are pleasant enough although not likely to be memorable. Track #5, "Butterscotch" seems to be a song the marketing people at Rhino are focusing on. The duet with Athena Cage (former Kut Klose vocalist) attempts to recapture the sound of their 1996 #1 hit “Nobody”. The fact I was not a fan of "Nobody" should be taken into account when I say, I really hate this song. "Butterscotch" is the type of cookie-cutter R&B that has so plague urban radio the last 10-12 years. The album gets back on track (briefly) with "Me & My Girl". Besides the slight hint of autotune, which is the worst trend going in R&B today (think T-Pain if you don't know what autotune is), this is the type of song that puts Sweat in the pocket. Good clean beat with a simple but pleasant melody. "Suga Suga Suga" with Paisley Bettis is another decent cut, even if it is a little too R Kelly-esq at times for my tastes. Of the remaining 5 songs, only the Keyshia Cole duet “Love You Better” is worthwhile. This is another song Rhino is hyping and is probably Keith's best shot at mainstream radio play. Keyshia is definitely one of the best "new school" female vocalists around now and compliments Sweat well on the track.


The BOTTOM LINE

I have to say the album is a bit of a disappointment. There are some nice cuts on here but none are in the class of his early work. All the songs in and of themselves are decent enough. But the album really suffers from a lack of quality and creative production (which doesn't make it much different than most mainstream R&B albums today). It would have been more interesting for Sweat and Riley to work together on most if not all of the tracks or had Keith take a left turn and go for something more soulful. But it seems Sweat is still playing the "hit-chaser" game that so many older artist get caught up in.


BUY or BURN

If you're a huge Keith Sweat fan or like the sound of current R&B slow jams, buy it. For everyone else this one's a burn.


The SCORE

4.5 (10)

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