Bobby Valentino has thus far provided a mix bag from his musical offerings. His first album was a fantastic injection of creativity; incorporating Oriental samples into R&B grooves to create an exotic atmosphere laced with classic sensual R&B vocals. For me this went wrong when he departed from Tim and Bob and worked with Timbaland, jumping on the hot sound at the time. While still showing elements of class from both artist and producer, it wasn’t why originally loved him; this is the backdrop to his new album. Can he come back with Tim and Bob, with something fresh and yet familiar to reclaim his and R&B’s spot in the charts?
The first track 'Elektrik' delivers an instant hard-hitting R&B banger with Soul. The groove is built on a throwback sound constructed from Analog synthesised bass and Rhodes keyboard, stabbing together to create a vintage but yet fresh dancefloor filling sound. The drums are simple and accented by the Hi-Hats which are clearly meant to emulate 80s drum machines - they have a distinctive crunch to them which brings back memories of the famous Linn Drum that graced Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller' album and Prince’s 'Purple Rain' album (1982 and 1984 respectively). Bobby delivers a classic R&B vocal that glides well over the track giving us the R&B banger we’ve all been waiting for. The only thing missing for the discerning listener could possibly be more daring vocal melodies and a nice break; however this isn’t a boundary-pushing exercise this is clearly a head nod to his original fans and also you have to respect someone that just makes what they like.
The next track ‘Thrilla’ he tries his hand at a mumble rap style trap track in which he pretends he can’t sing. Not being the biggest fan of that style I’m just glad it’s not terrible, you wouldn’t have to skip it, it could just grow on you. In 'Lil Bit,' the lead single, we go back to classic Tim and Bob with their signature use of oriental percussion and samples that feels like a fresh breath of air on an exotic island. One might question what has changed since their first foray into this sound, the answer is not much, but that's fine because their style was never exactly played out and again its almost just impressive to see them sticking to their guns saying this is R&B”, in an age where people seem to be obsessed with newness and sounding the same this track has a signature.
Lyrically Bobby now slips in swapping Instagram nudes into his lyrics, which is an update of some sort. As the beat drops, we’re prepared for Bobby by Snoop Dogg who delivers a 'Beautiful' style intro verse, which just flows with such ease. It's annoying how easy rhyming is for Snoop because this verse is pretty lazy but we can't complain because it just works; I just wonder what would happen if he actually sat down and wrote some ‘Doggystyle’ venom again. But I digress; we’re soon over that because we’re hit with some classic Bobby V vocals with all their usual silk and bombast. Again, this track could have been more adventurous melodically but perhaps this is dealt with elsewhere in the album.
The next track 'Promise' see’s Bobby sing a musically credible melody alongside vulnerable and loving lyrics which in popular music in 2018 forces a “Hallelujah” from my mind. The beat is solid, not placing itself too much into any time period, but preferring the classic R&B feel. The groove is driven by a distorted hi-hat loop and then later a nice round and phat kick drum and woodblock snare. The chorus’s harmonies are great and this track is edging on greatness territory.
The next track 'Save Us' gives us a different sound that is still instant R&B satisfaction but yet pushes is slightly to the indie realm. It almost has a Fleetwood Mac groove with the subtle bass guitar slides, either way its nice groove again giving us a generous portion of nostalgia with the cheap but nice sounding vocal synth sound that shudders through the groove. The track concept is good and I’m happy with what seems like a solid offering so far. Having reminded you of why we love him, he takes the classic Tim and Bob oriental sample and plays with the drum pattern in a modern way that furnishes us with an interesting ear-pricking sound, which is refreshing. This is what I would want from Bobby V, he’s being himself but updating himself appropriately; it's not forced and is still markedly him. ‘Beautiful Life’ again exhibits some more daring melodies and harmonies with exemplary vocal arrangement; even if he does slightly employ the mumble rap pattern at the beginning of the verses, I forgive you Bobby. Can Bobby up the levels and make this album a classic?
'Love Me Slow' is like a sweet middle finger to the idea that R&B can’t deliver. A silky smooth guitar riff with trap-style drums are complimented by clever lyrics and flows that tell a story that is almost believable. The story is enhanced again by excellent use of the change between chest voice and falsetto which is done to perfection in this song and further accented by a clever and classic use of talkbox which brings this track into Blackstreet territory, but amazingly it's not overdone; it's like the cream on a nice latte. For a sexy slow jam, it’s also surprisingly subtle by modern day standards, which is nice.
‘Obsessed’ plays with maracas as an unusual rhythm section, with what sounds like digital synths providing an inoffensive backdrop to Bobby's vocals. This track is slightly underwhelming but still has a pleasing groove and great arrangement, which makes it enjoyable.
'Celebrate' brings a welcome change of drum-kit, which instantly sounds more modern, but the song is weak, the chorus is poor. Its almost like he had to make this song and wasn’t really feeling it. It's weak but again the arrangement and party vibe means you can leave it on without it being too offensive. 'Lego' is another more modern offering. I’m not so fond of this lyrically, flow-wise or beat-wise however again it still manages to not be wack, there’s still something I like about it - maybe it could be a grower.
'Triple Threat’ is a clever and cute song concept, and the production hits hard with the combination of 808 bass and round kick drum; not an outstanding track but again, nice variety. The album is the rounded off with ‘Believe’ which has a Jodeci style chorus willing us to believe over a traditional R&B style guitar riff. While this album lacks a little wow factor it is solid for the most part and re-establishes Bobby V as a leading force in R&B.
The album is balanced, providing some instant hits, some shallow and some more passionate lyrics. Where quality dithers slightly, likeability makes up for it; so while perhaps not a classic, this may be one of your favorite R&B albums of the year. I’d give this what feels like a harsh but fair 7.25/10; yes I had to go that detailed because it just lacked too much for it to be a 7.5 Perhaps the 0.25 is the kudos for sticking to his guns with the sound, either way, this is an album R&B fans should check out for sure; I might even go as far as buying a CD to pump in my car!