Of what I consider to be neo-soul's second wave (Erykah Badu, Maxwell, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and a few others make up the first), I must admit that I never expected Musiq Soulchild to have the shelf life that he has. Now going 10 years strong, Musiq -- HeOfTheSmashedTogetherAlbumAndSongTitles -- returns with his sixth set MusiqInTheMagiq.
Ever the romantic, Musiq isn't covering any new ground here. Almost every song is destined to be played in the background on dates, engagement parties, wedding receptions, and bedroom sessions. For Musiq, this is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it sticks with what he's good at and a curse because there is nothing here to differentiate it from his previous efforts.
The album starts off with the Swizz Beatz-assisted "Anything," an assurance to his girl that he's being honest and true to her. It's a fun enough jam (although Swizz Beatz's rapping is, as usual, unnecessary) and obviously the album's best choice of single.
The two songs that follow, "Single" and "SayIDo," are largely forgettable. That's because, as mentioned, Musiq has already covered this ground better in other songs. It isn't until "LoveContract" that a little bit of spice is thrown into the mix. The song, which is in the vein of Raphael Saadiq's most recent throwback sound, speaks on changing his ways to make his love happy.
"Silver&Gold" proves to be a lackluster affair, though it does have a solid vocal performance from the singer going for it. Perhaps a stronger chorus could've helped (and quite honestly, proclaiming something being better than silver and gold is probably the most clichéd thing someone could say).
Luckily, he follows it with the heartfelt "WaitingStill," a definite highlight of the set proclaiming his love even when he's away on the road. The song is wistful, and you can feel the urgency in his voice as he sings the chorus, exercising his underused falsetto.
Some of Musiq's best work comes from discussing the more complicated side of love (see Aijuswanaseing's "MaryGoRound" and Juslisen's "Halfcrazy") and that's no different here. The back-to-back tracks "BacktoWhere," "DoWeHaveTo," and "BeFriends" all deal with the murkiness that occurs once you get down to matters of the heart, and each track delivers.
"BackToWhere" is perhaps the album's best, a track devoted to trying to get that ol' thang back, something to which I'm sure everyone can relate. "DoWeHaveTo" is a kiss-off of sorts, letting his girl know that the arguing just isn't working out, and if she isn't the girl he first met, then he simply doesn't want to be with her anymore. "BeFriends" finds Musiq stating that he wants more than just a friendship. All three songs are tight with awesome arrangements that allow Musiq's voice to shine.
And if you were looking for something in the baby-making vein, Musiq didn't forget about you. "Medicine" is a slow jam where the crooner promises to be the cure to all that ails you. The album closer, "Like the Sun," is a mid-tempo burner where he promises to "leave you on fire like the sun" amidst a chorus of slinky synthesizers and claps.
Is MusiqInTheMagiq Musiq's best? Not by far. However, he still manages to squeeze a bit of the charm that lured listeners in for his previous work. If only he'd stretched himself a bit more topic- and sound-wise, I might've been completely under his spell.