[31 May 2011]
Of all the syrup-throated crooners that emerged during the neo-soul boom of the early 2000s, Musiq Soulchild was perhaps the least starlike. His vocals were more coffee house than club stage, and his music was often a soulful sort of minimal sound that put the emphasis of his performance purely on the lyrics. Luckily, on his first few releases Musiq backed that up with many of the sweeter, simpler love songs of his era. But for the past four years or so Musiq has seemed wary of his fading presence on pop radio, as the masses shift towards basic oontz beats and club trends. MusiqInTheMagiq continues that trend, making it another tough listen for fans of his original style in the vein of OnMyRadio.
Musiq’s vocals aren’t and never have been the sort to blow you out of the room. He’s a Trey Songz without the urges to hit the upper register, a guy who’s always been more of a total package than a straight crooner. This makes songs with awfully bland backing tracks and pretty staid subject matter like “Single” really struggle to work, because Musiq doesn’t bring any missing energy to the process. His ear for a good melody is put on display with “Sayido” and “Anything”, but the latter does suffer a little from lyrics that are a little less principled than those of past Musiq songs and more uncomfortable nightclub pandering.
His stylistic flubs aren’t limited to just those. Just as he follows that trend, he hooks up with ELEMENT and Jack Splash to craft slices of throwback ‘60s soul in the vein of Raphael Saadiq. Not only is it a shame those two are beginning to play their hands in such an uncouth manner, but it’s confusing why Musiq threads his vocals with traces of autotune and pitch shifting on music that’s supposed to bring to mind days long gone. Perhaps it’s needless to say, but the smushing together of eras doesn’t come off as very charming. The manipulation of his vocals on this album is way too abundant for me to really enjoy this album, and the production too uncharacteristic of Musiq for me to really get behind. Near the end of the album we do get some treats. “Dowehaveto?” is pretty vintage and fair, while “Befriends” covers his favorite subject matter as good as always and “Yes” shines as the highlight. This second half doesn’t really make up for such a languid first, though.
MusiqInTheMagiq is not only a really annoying album title, it’s also a pretty bland and uninspiring album. Musiq’s not penning tracks like “Halfcrazy”, “Bestfriend”, “Just Friends” or “L Is Gone” anymore, and at the moment he seems to be more interested in trying on various ill-fitting hats than putting together a good, solid album. The music and lyrics here are too safe and, frankly, boring to recommend this to any but the most dedicated of R&B listeners. Little hints of Musiq’s talents crop up here and there on MusiqInTheMagiq, but they’re too few and far between to really recommend your cash come Musiq’s way this time.