Joe: Doubleback: Evolution of R&B

Joe smooths out and seduces away contradictions with croons and bass lines.


Doubleback: Evolution Of R&B;

Label: Massenburg
US Release Date: 2013-07-02
UK Release Date: 2013-07-02
Label website
Artist website

The new album from the R&B singer Joe is named Doubleback: Evolution of R&B, which doesn't make a lot of sense: after all, evolution, the process of moving forward towards new things, seems permanently at odds with the act of doubling back. But Joe doesn't seem troubled with this conflict. It's his new album, so by definition it's the next step in his growth as an artist. And Doubleback comes filled with bits and pieces of soul and funk from the '70s, or '90s interpolations of that '70s sound. So Joe evolves, and he doubles back. Case closed.

Joe has been making music since 1993—he debuted around the same time as R. Kelly, and both men are still going, 20 years later, testaments to longevity in the treacherous market of popular music. The two make an interesting pair. Both are R&B singers fixated on the sensual, but R. Kelly followed a wild road, full of highs—extravagant albums, hip-hoperas, number one hits that remain ubiquitous—and lows, most notably his sex scandal. Joe took a more cautious route, not taking as many crazy risks as R. Kelly and not achieving the same levels of success and notoriety, though his albums have also sold well. Now both singers have arrived at a similar place: making music heavily skewed towards the stuff they heard on the radio when they were younger.

Doubleback relies on thick rhythm parts, while guitars carry the melody, and dashes of strings season the pot. "Mary Jane" slinks like the Isley Brothers, while "I'd Rather Have a Love" brings to mind the Stax singer William Bell's "I Forgot to Be Your Lover", by way of Anthony Hamilton. "Baby" works a theme that R. Kelly explored in his 1995 song "Baby, Baby, Baby"—namely, crooning the word baby over and over, using repetition for persuasion. And "Looking for Love" evokes Jaheim's debut album, which used the same phrase on one of its grooviest songs.

On "Easy", Joe sings "Sometimes you gotta put in work to make it work. . . but this ain't one of them nights." He promises to be pleasing and pledges to do the heavy lifting, smoothing out and seducing away contradictions, with croons and bass lines. You're not riding R. Kelly's crazy "soulacoaster," but consistency has its own virtues.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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