Seal's sixth studio album is more of what is expected from this longtime artist who is too reluctant to leap out of his comfort zone.
It’s taken me quite awhile to wrap my head around Seal’s 6th studio album, aptly titled 6: Commitment. Seal has always been teetering between the borders of adult-contemporary blandness and pop/R&B soul. This taxonomical tight-rope walk is the main reason why Seal is dismissed by many as being an artist that once had the potential to be really awesome when he appeared on the scene with “Killer” and “Crazy” from his self-titled debut, but lapsed into a-c mediocrity with the mainstream hit “Kiss from a Rose” (what does that even mean?). Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from 6: Commitment, and in many ways I didn’t get much.
6: Commitment begins with the lush introduction of “If I’m Any Closer”, and soon depletes into characteristic Seal fare as he sings “Did I forget my keys, my fags, my phone, my head / And, oh, some cash, remind me”. It’s a stark moment in a tune that begins pleasantly enough, but soon collapses into what is expected from a Seal song. This is fundamentally the issue surrounding 6: Commitment, and the catalyst to its demise. Seal is committed to maintaining the style that propelled him into stardom in the early '90s, but has lapsed in recent years, relegating him into adult contemporary obscurity. Case in point, when I was sent Seal’s album for review, I received a massive package with a non-descript CDR featuring a minimal CD insert with standard printed track listing and copyright information. So, why the big package? Well, included in it was a note from the label’s assistant A&R representative who encouraged me to take notice of the latest pop-tartlet singing offensive pop/R&B/crap about how she wants you to touch her. Full press-kit with expanded bio, interviews, high-resolution pictures, and full-artwork were a part of introducing this new(er) artist, but Seal’s sixth studio album was pitifully presented as an afterthought. (It’s disturbing to think that this is what has become of the established artist’s representation -- reduced to being an opening act for undeserving newer “talent”). I understand that the intention might have been that Seal is already a “mega-star” (lol), and that coupling his music with that of an up and comer means she needs more introduction, but the impression was unavoidable.
“If I’m Any Closer” melds perfectly into “Weight of my Mistakes”, the lyrics of which are baffling: “The weight of my mistakes depends on how I feel / But don’t let it bring you down / The weight of what I say / Depends on how you feel / But I don’t want to bring you down, down, down / I went walkin’ down a busy street / I was lookin’ for a heartache / I went lookin’ for my heartache / She said, “Don’t you wanna be with me?” / Ooh, what a difference a day makes / What a difference a day makes / Lay on my pillow / Look on us now / One for today / Two for tomorrow”. What does that mean? I have a vague understanding of what he’s trying to say, but ultimately his verbal discontinuity is so extreme that it’s barely intelligible.
Seal continues to spew forth these unwieldy lyrics throughout 6: Commitment. I advise you tune in and out to actually enjoy and potentially understand this record, as opposed to focusing in and trying to discern precisely what he’s attempting to say. Seal makes more sense when all you hear are tidbits of lines. For example, “Best of Me” includes a supremely catchy chorus where he sings “You bring out the best in me, baby”. This is all that is required to get the gist of what he’s trying to say. As an aggregate, it’s clear that Seal is singing about the turmoil that comes from committed love and grappling with opposing desires and conflicts. It’s an admirable topic to approach in music, and Seal’s smokey strained vocals are perfectly accented by the (sometimes) tortured content of the material.
Absorbing Seal’s sixth studio album on a surface level is highly recommended, because this is the only way to truly appreciate some of the albums’ stronger entries. The music sways back and forth with intricate melodic structure and occasionally interesting backing instrumentation, but too close an inspection will reveal the fragile veneer of the album’s authoring and cause the illusion to crack and shatter. The depth that Heidi Klum’s husband was probably hoping for with 6: Commitment is unfortunately absent, leaving his audience with a shallow, glossed-over account of committed love disguised as a richly inspiring, thought-provoking record. With tracks like “Silence” and the sappy mess that is “You Get Me”, the record tries desperately to convey heartfelt emotion, but its affected nature is always apparent. It’s the kind of album that some swarmy executive-type dude would play for a girl on a first date in hopes of getting lucky. The album does warrant more than that particular scenario, just not much more.