“Took forever to find your love / girl our love is timeless”. Sigh, those chivalrous, authentic lyrics can only hail from an adult contemporary R&B song, right? Right. Case delivers the aforementioned lines on his sixth album Heaven’s Door, his first LP in five years. Heaven’s Door is precisely the type of album one expects from a ’90s, early ’00s R&B star past their lucrative prime – one foot in the door of the past and the other in the future. The results yield a respectable, “good” effort that never quite reaches “greatness”. Even if Heaven’s Door does little to build upon the future, it has plenty of worthwhile moments.
“Timeless” kicks things off with a dusty, soulful hip-hop beat and a bare-bones backdrop. Eventually, “Timeless” evolves into a full-fledged spirited arrangement with soulfulness emanating. Although it doesn’t reinvent the wheel Case sounds sincere. As it’s title suggests, “Heavy Breathing” is drenched in innuendo, with Case affirming such on the chorus with lyrics like “Up, down, back and forth / Your body brings me so much joy”. More potent than the opener, “Heavy Breathing” is firmly planted in R&B a la the early 00s, without updating the sound dabbling in flashiness.
Standout “Shook Up” embraces a similar script, offering one of the set’s most well rounded cuts. Grown and sexy R&B, sex is approached with refinement, not the least bit animalistic. “Difficult” keeps love and relationships at the forefront, but takes a while to percolate and develop into a stable cut. From the beginning, it’s a bit nebulous, only settling in late. “Think About Us” and “Juggle” both showcase Case’s pure, nuanced pipes and do a better job of showing the listener where they stand – somewhere in the middle.
“Damn Girl” provides Heaven’s Door something it desperately needed – a quicker tempo. Along with its spryer pace, “Damn Girl” also finds Case spitting plenty of game, whether it’s, “And with your body we can do the damn thing” or “ooh little mama / we can kick it like karate”. An equally successful record, “Blast Off” which appears further down the track list, shines thanks to Case’s swagger, which tends to win versus his poise. Case is definitely ‘flexing’ on a lascivious lyric like, “I want you to touch / everything in this cockpit”, a risqué if corny come on any contemporary male R&B would eat up.
“Meet Me In The Middle” cools off the bedroom fare, focusing on the relationship itself. It’s a fitting, timely contrast that prevents Case from stepping too far out of his box. Like the majority of Heaven’s Door, Case won’t be winning a new crop of listeners, but it should satisfy his base. “Tour” may be best described as adult contemporary-oriented R&B, but there’s a shift to more modern cues, namely hip-hop derived percussion and southern rap’s popular pitch-shifted (‘chopped and screwed) vocals.
After the salacious launch of the earlier referenced “Blast Off”, the “Replay” doesn’t curb the freaky factor. Orgasmic sounds further establish the vibe, thanks to the cooing, breathy vocals of the female background vocalist. Following the jazzy, uplifting “You Just Don’t Know”, Heaven’s Door concludes heavenly with thoughtful ballad “I Won’t Cry Anymore”. Some editions feature even more Case, by way of bonus tracks “Speakerboxx” and “Give It 2 U”, both driven by sensuality.
Overall, Heaven’s Door is sound without being spectacular. Case himself sounds exceptional, which makes Heaven’s Door that much more attractive and likable. Also to Case’s credit, he puts his foot in the door of the present state of R&B, even if that state is ‘in flux’ itself. The main rub with Heaven’s Door is that the script is predictable – there’s nothing that thought provoking enough to entice Case to a new generation nor is there that extra push to rejuvenate R&B itself. Arguably neither of these is the artist’s priorities, but a little extra spice would have only accentuated Heaven’s Door all said and done.