I'm feeling all kinds of dramatic lately. I suspect (and I could be wrong, but I'd prefer to find a scapegoat), that it has to do with the fact that I've had Tamia's Beautiful Surprise on repeat all week.
Tamia's first studio album in six years is a return to that classic adult contemporary R&B/soul sound that she is associated with. Reinvention can be a great thing in the right hands; however, there are some artists who listeners will always love just because they stay in their lane. They know what they're good at, they know their strong points, they know what fans want and they deliver. Tamia is one of those artists. Tamia's strength is ballads and mid-tempo tracks, which go perfectly with that extra-large, five-octave voice of hers, and if that's your cup of tea, then this album will please you to no end.
The album is executive produced by Claude Kelly, who has worked with just about everyone in the pop world, and written solid hits for Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson and one of my personal favorites, Ledisi. I have to say, his touch along with the selection of producers Tamia's used -- The Runners, Salaam Remi, Luke Laird amongst others -- worked well with her voice and the overall theme of the album. What's the theme, you're wondering? Well, basically love, love and, yes, more love.
Now, you may remember that earlier on I stated that this album had me acting and feeling quite dramatic? Well, yes, the fact is that the album goes into the over-the-top drama department at times. But the fact is that Tamia shines vocally on those dramatic moments such as "Still Love You," "Is It Over Yet" and "It's Not Fair," which, with its Spanish-style guitar and belted out chorus, could be the second coming of Toni Braxton's "Un-break My Heart'.
By far the most pleasant moments on the album, and the least likely to see you whipping out the Ben & Jerrys, are the mid-tempo moments. "Him," "Believe In Love" and the opening track, "Lose My Mind," are sweet and catchy creations that celebrate all that's joyful and beautiful about being in love. Having said all that, though, the finest track on Beautiful Surprise is the final track, which is a country song. It's not surprising when you listen to Tamia's vocal tone and the adult contemporary styling of her songs, that she would go into country. It works for her. The track in question is "Still," which previously appeared in R&B form on Tamia's 2004 album, More. The country version is undeniably a stronger track than the original version. Be prepared to hear this at weddings everywhere for a while yet.
On Beautiful Surprise you will not hear any avante garde tracks that push musical boundaries. This is most definitely one for the true Tamia fans, for those who appreciate that mature, timeless R&B/soul sound and those who love their ballads. So while this album may not be a surprise, it is undeniably beautiful.