[1 November 2006]
Female R&B vocalists are judged by how they compare with the great soul vocalists of the past. With a legacy full of talents as great as Betty Wright, Esther Phillips, Ann Peebles and such—even superstars like Mary J. Blige are suspect as overrated inferior singers whose reputations have been inflated because of a diluted musical pool. This is the situation faced by Stephanie McKay. Her first UK only disc earned rave reviews as the British music press hailed her as the next big thang, but the buzz on her native side of the pond was a so what. How good could this Bronx girl, or any new distaff R&B singer be?
This domestic EP features two of the best tracks from the import disc (“Rising Tide”, “Take Me Over”), two mixes of a hot new song, “Tell It Like It Is” and another didactic original track (M.O.N.E.Y.”) McKay preaches about life in the hood and rising above it. She tells her audience that each of them can better themselves in a passionate, dramatic voice. Musically, she delivers the goods. Her vocals convey the grittiness of experience elevated by living one’s dreams. Think Stevie Wonder circa Talking Book as a touchstone.