by Dom Jones
Ever since his first album, entitled Aijustwanaseing, Musiq Soulchild’s mixture of authentic, almost conversational songwriting and live musicianship to hold up his weighty lyrics has been his signature sound. Seven solo albums into his 17-year career, it would be so very easy for Soulchild to acquiesce to the dominant sonic landscape of the day, and make music that would completely abandon his core audience. Instead, he has chosen, with his two latest singles, to stick to the sound that has made him still one of the most recognizable singer/songwriters in music today.
This first song, about reunited with a good friend who never had the opportunity to transition into more, is wrought with an old school vibe that you might hear on an Isaac Hayes or Curtis Mayfield produced record. As usual, his harmonies are layered in such a way that he becomes his own choir, tastefully placing riffs, his lead vocal mixed to sit just on top of his backgrounds. One thing that I really love about this video is that the storyline in the video actually follows the story being told in the song! At the end, we’re not sure how the couple’s love story is going to end up, but the listener’s ears are definitely left sated, if not their imagination about the narrative.
This story is the tale of two women: one who has everything she wants in life, but is ungrateful and treats those around her as though they’re beneath her, including her boyfriend (played by Musiq), and the other woman in the story: the maid. The maid makes the best of what she has, treating life as a gift and those around her with kindness (even her mean boss). Musiq finds himself lamenting his relationship with the former women and thinking fondly of the latter, realizing that material things are fun when accompanied by humility, gratitude, and grace.
One thing to note is that while other male R&B artists like Mali Music, Kevin Ross, and BJ The Chicago Kid have made songs
about social justice, Musiq has stuck to songs about love and inspiration. His last album, Life on Earth, was a banger start to finish, and the ensuing string of shows afterward fortified his musicianship through his live show. I saw him twice in my hometown of Oakland, California, where he had almost a full week of sold out shows. I took my older sister to the show, and though it was towards the end of his run of shows, he still had the vocal prowess to hit some of the high range notes or adjust the arrangements as needed. If these singles are any indication, I’m pretty excited about his forthcoming eighth solo studio album, Feel The Real, especially in this landscape of R&B, where the sound is so homogenous, boring, underproduced, and underdeveloped. The real question is will Musiq Soulchild have another breakout hit? He’s most known for “Just Friends (Sunny),” “Love,” “HalfCrazy,” “Don’t Change,” “BUDDY,” and “Teachme,” but after the Luvanmusiq album, he ironically struggled to find radio success with his next album On My Radio, though “sobeautiful” is one of my favorite Musiq Soulchild songs of all time. I personally felt that on his last album, Life on Earth, he chose the wrong single to lead with, which may have contributed to the album flying under the radar outside of his core fan base. I think that with the right single choice (and maybe a cool, young feature like one of the aforementioned male R&B artists), Musiq can really push himself back into the center stage of R&B/Soul music and help get the genre back on the right side of music history. His formula for creation is a winning one… just one that more people need to hear.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MUSIQ’S NEW SINGLES? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!