When the sultry vocals of Chrisette Michele first glided across the choruses of Jay-Z’s “Lost Ones” and a handful of hooks on Nas’ Hip Hop is Dead album, listeners began to wonder “Who The F*ck Is That?” Her throaty chops belted words out with a deep sense of soul and evoked comparisons to some of the finer singers of our era (Jill Scott, anyone?). Her vocal stylings alone made her Def Jam debut album I Am a tasty morsel of music that people anticipated would be a breaking point in Soul music today. But when the album was finally released, would Michele be able to punctuate those lofty expectations? Yes and No.
Chrisette Michele is one helluva vocalist who can make exemplary tunes that can provide the listener with a much needed boost. She is an artist that can not only sing the hell out of a song, but can also provide something a tad different than the norm. The operating word here, however, is “can”. Throughout I Am, Michele flexes her jazzy voice as it resonates on groovy gems such as the cool as ice “Best Of Me”. She punches the lights out of “Your Joy” as she belts out every note with a distinct talent that bubbles over to fascinating. But once again, the operating word is “can”. Many of the songs feel like Michele is holding something back. Not as if she isn’t already working the track over with her strong voice, but it seems like she has something more to offer but isn’t for some reason.
Most of the time the albums seems too safe for an artist like Michele. She keeps it squeaky clean and harkens an older era of music that isn’t appreciated today like it should be. “Good Girl” is a piano driven track that allows Michele to punctuate her crispy clean image with entertaining results. Good message and all, it feels like something that should be there isn’t. “Best Of Me” is another track that’s calmness has a certain cutesy vibe attached to it. Sometimes it feels as if the raw emotion isn’t there.
But good music is good music and Michele provides that throughout. Packing it in with will.i.am on “Be Ok” proves to be one of the track’s high points as the uptempo beat proves to be a summer, top down, jam with the Black Eyed Peas frontman punctuating the track with its blaring horns.
So “can” Chrisette Michele make a great album? Yes. Did she? Not really. In comparison to stallions like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, Michele doesn’t quite give that intangible that makes those artists better than “pretty good.” As of right now, Michele is “pretty damn good,” but hasn’t unleashed something on I Am that proves that she can and will be great. A solid debut offering nonetheless, it’s just that we (fairly or unfairly) expected more from this spectacular talent.
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