Debelah Morgan: Dance with Me

Charlotte Robinson

Debelah Morgan

Dance with Me

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2000-08-15

Debelah Morgan might well be America's next golden-voiced diva, a la Whitney and Mariah. Blessed with a five-octave range, she's undoubtedly got the chops. She was also somewhat of a child prodigy, starting piano lessons at age three, performing her original compositions at age eight, and winning the Miss Black Teenage World pageant at 15. That impressive resume and her two previous albums, however, have not yet led to chart success.

This time out, on Dance with Me, Morgan has taken an amount of creative control unusual for an R&B artist. She co-wrote every song on the album and produced it with her brother, Giloh. The Morgans exhibit strong pop sensibilities in their compositions and production, but don't display a great deal of originality. At times, Debelah follows a bit too closely in Mariah Carey's sizable footsteps. "Take the Rain Away," for example, is undeniably infectious, but sounds an awful lot like Carey's "Emotions," right down to the "I am going to show off my incredible range" vocal histrionics. Morgan belts out the notes only dogs can hear several times on Dance with Me, which is a shame, since she sounds much better when she's not over-singing.

Fortunately, Morgan also possesses a Carey-like ability to alternate between ballads and hip-hop tinged pop. She can easily swing from the role of vixen on the title track ("So baby when we hit the floor / You'll be askin' for more / Let's make love and dance the night away") to girl-next-door in "Think of You" ("I think about you all the time / You really blow my mind / I'm so glad you're mine"). True, the lyrics are hardly poetic or original, but Morgan tries to deliver every note as if she means it.

The biggest surprise on Dance with Me is "Alright," an original gospel song. While its spiritual tone doesn't fit well with some of the other, sexy material, the song provides the best showcase for Morgan's soaring, lovely voice. Unfortunately, it also proves how little the lightweight pop of the rest of the album serves Morgan's greatest asset.

Overall, Dance with Me is an album full of pleasant if fluffy songs, several of which could provide Morgan with a hit single. Although her songs are not yet innovative or original, Morgan should nonetheless be applauded for taking control of her art, for this is something far too few female R&B artists do. At some point, Morgan might just deliver the goods, too.

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

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

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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

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