Marsha Ambrosius is not only known for her unique fluttering vocals but also for drawing fans into her sensual web with appetite-whetting mixtapes. Her Sextape anthology is the stuff of lore as I do not remember another instance of such a creative, buzz-building marketing campaign for an R&B album prior. For this album cycle, Marsha has released Hors D'Oeuvres, a mixtape that is surprisingly darker in tone. This dark tone is foreshadowed by the baroque wallpaper pattern and classic font of the mixtape cover. The set starts with Marsha setting the mood, with that sexy accent of hers, in an interlude speaking to previous adventures like Late Nights & Early Mornings and setting the stage for the "Cold War" coming soon.
On "Expect This Sh*t" Marsha sharply melts her voice around some rich piano production reminiscent of a classical music selection. Before I knew it, I was caught up in the song's story about a person regretting putting themselves in a position where they could be hurt. "Expect This S*it" is a song I would expect on Friends & Lovers and makes me wonder what lies ahead if Marsha relegated this song to Hors D'Oeuvres. The next track, "Slow Motion," doesn't quite measure up to the others, and it makes sense that it would be put on the sampler. When I first heard "Slow Motion" I couldn't shake the novelty of the first verse because it sounded so familiar. The cadence and phrasing seems to be a creative sample of Prince's "1999."
The highlight of this venture is without a doubt "Summer (Served Cold)." For the past couple days, I couldn't imagine hearing a track that would displace Tamar Braxton's "Love and War" from playing on repeat in my head. "Summer" stopped me dead in my tracks. Marsha always does a great service to listeners and fans by creating a complete atmosphere of R&B that blocks out anything else happening in the world. "Summer" is a moody, multi-faceted addictive track. Like a Phyllis Hyman song, "Summer" is emotionally tiring. I found myself traversing every passionate twist and turn along with Marsha on this cathartic track. Ambrosius allows the tension to build until she unleashes those fluttering high notes.
When I first heard the last track "FCKINGITITOVAWID" I thought it was a ratchet mess. But, I believe I am wrong. Hearing it in sequence with the rest of the mixtape gave me a different perspective on the song as many of us have felt the same way at some time or another in our love lives.
Hors D'Oeuvres has definitely served its purpose by satiating my craving for new material from Marsha Ambrosius. My only gripe are the repeated DJ Aktive drops. They definitely threw the mixtape off track and kill the mood. I appreciate the need to brand productions, but subtlety is key.
It will be interesting to see in what direction Marsha will take Friends & Lovers. She definitely has the potential to go deeper into the silo that can be contemporary R&B, but she has also had a taste of crossover success. Each approach may require taking the music in a different direction.
Marsha Ambrosius Hors D'Oeuvres [Download]