Girl meets boy. Girl writes pining songs for boy, sings from her bowels about the greatness of meeting boy, goes from being Jill Scott’s back-up singer and part of a blip on the musical radar screen named Younique to make her own debut. Girl creates A Love Story, leaving her audience wondering why so many love stories are predictable and uneven, how the right voice at the right time can sound so off-key. Maybe it’s because singers with axes to grind aren’t quite as novel as they used to be. And while Vivian Green isn’t exactly the black Alanis Morrissette, she’s no late ‘80s Whitney, either. She could benefit from a discernable identity from both the smart-ass rock chicks and the strung-out diva set. But if A Love Story is any indication, she doesn’t want to be those folks. Who she truly is, as an artist, gets lost in mediocre production. But even if it’s hard to know who Vivian Green is aside from her story of unrequited, down-on-her-knees saddening, love, her voice is beautiful.
Philly-native Vivian Green sounds like a chime with the wind flirting through it. With her petite stature, her hands picking up a long, beautiful black skirt on the album cover, it would seem that a combination of good looks and good material would make her a stand-out in the world of self-deprecating R&B drones like Ashanti or Sylveena Johnson. Then, two songs into what could become a decent album to at least sing along with in the shower, there’s the atrocious anti-strong-black-woman song, “Superwoman”, with the most annoying chorus the world has heard since “Woo-hah!”
Yes, she says, “I am human not perfection”, but while music’s goal is not the aspiration for the ultimate sound, it should be—like all things in life—that striving towards excellence that becomes a singer’s trademark.
There are highlights in this tragic meeting of Chauncey Childs’ trite production and Green’s syrupy lyrics. The Osunlade-produced “What Is Love” is delicate and understated, a sweet rendering of the complexities and questions that arise in relationships. Moments like this song make the album worth listening to. Another “Emotional Rollercoaster”, the album’s first single, is an encompassing achievement for Green and offers promise for her future, if not her love life, when the production catches up with her voice and the track matches her sleepy delivery, the infectiousness translates to her complete message.
If you happen to have a bottle of strong liquor handy, “No Sittin’ by the Phone” is a great song to put on. The lyrics and music would make Aretha misty-eyed with nostalgia, even if Green’s delivery is more jazz than soul-wrenching.
Up-tempo is not Green’s forte for a number of reasons. Mostly because her voice has more jazz in it than hip-hop, and she doesn’t do well posing. As a result, songs like “Fanatic” and “Ain’t Nothing But Love” may be great efforts at aural poetry but they come across as stiff and forced. Vivian Green’s voice makes this journey through her heartbreak hotel worth the tour, but at the end of her girl meets boy story there’s just too much left out of A Love Story to make it noteworthy.