Music

Lyfe Jennings: I Still Believe

Lyfe Jennings's final album is as beautiful a summation of his career as could have been made.


Lyfe Jennings

I Still Believe

Label: Warner Bros
US Release Date: 2010-08-31
UK Release Date: 2010-08-31
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Lyfe Jennings has always seemed like an artist from another era. He’s a folk singer, a genuine urban griot who makes songs that paint vivid pictures of crime, redemption, love and pain. He’s the street corner prophet who has seen it all, done it all, and can make you feel and identify with the full measure of that experience through his music.

He's the only one we got. It’s sad that I Still Believe is likely to be Jennings’ last album, by both design (Jennings said it would be his last so he could spend time with his children) and circumstance (Jennings was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in September as a result of a two-year old case stemming from a domestic dispute).

What I Still Believe leaves us with is a man still struggling, reflective, and, ultimately quite hopeful. Many of the songs depict Jennings as a man still trying to find his place in love and life. The lead single “Busy” is about how frustrated one feels when their lover is too busy for them. Jennings is, as usual, emotionally open and honest. The song turns at the very moment that he realizes his frustration is really borne from insecurity: “if you don’t wanna love me, let me know.” “It Coulda Been Worse” takes that insecurity one step further, as Jennings copes with feelings of inadequacy: “Sometimes when I’m with you I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster / Scared to death I’ll do somethin’ I’m not supposed to.”

With “Love” and “Mama”, a beautiful duet with the great Anthony Hamilton, Jennings shows once again that he excels at a very specific kind of cautionary soul song. Like on “S.E.X.”, Jennings is teaching his audience. Here's a sample lyric from “Love”: “If you want your girl, need your girl”. Both songs work because Jennings is completely unselfconscious. There is not an ingenuine bone is his body. That, more times than not, is the key reason his music works.

As the album plays, the songs become more and more about self-reflection and less about the pains and pangs of love. Jennings’s singing becomes more and more urgent. The final four songs – “Learn From This”, “Done Crying”, “If I Knew Then, What I Know Now” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes” – are poignant, thoughtful and completely affecting, as a result.

Listening to I Still Believe, one can hear how our favorite stick-up kid has grown into a man who wants to do the right thing, wants to be loved, stumbles quite a bit and has unflappable faith that life can always get better. On the album closer “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, Lyfe leaves us with as apt a final statement of his career as anyone could write: “I'll make sure that I'm the one who says how much I can't / Remember me for that.” That last bit, that hope, is the thread that keeps the album from being depressing or indulgent. It’s been the defining element of Jennings’ all-too-brief career. Lyfe Jennings is a singer for whom music truly has been a lifeline, and he has made four albums of music in hopes that people who believe music is their lifeline will find it.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image