Just when you think you’ve heard everything and everybody, you stumble upon someone new. I saw this young lady’s name mentioned in several places all across the internet. Then I read her credits (paraphrased from her bio): vocals on the soundtrack for Paramount Pictures’ THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS, she was sought out by vocal great Jennifer Holiday to be choral director for the revival of the Tony Award winning DREAMGIRLS, she made history with daily performances at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO and four private events during the 2009 Inauguration of President Barack Obama, and she has had the esteemed pleasure of performing with and/or for Rachelle Ferrell, Roy Ayers (who is featured on her debut album) Michael Buble, Anthony Hamilton, gospel icon Karen Clark-Sheard and the one and only David Foster. I had to find out who she was and get familiar to with her album and see what all this hype was about.
1. All In My Head
I don’t really like putting artists in a box, but when doing reviews, it helps to give you an idea of what I’m hearing since you’re reading, not listening. In this particular case, this song sounds like everything that was right about the Neo-Soul movement of the 90′s. The music is genuine, the voice is soulful, and the lyrics are meaningful. I’m pretty excited to hear what the rest of the album sounds like.
The definition of Pining (Pinin’…for those of you that don’t know the term) is to 1) suffer a mental and physical decline, esp. because of a broken heart. or 2) miss and long for the return of. For those of you still lost, maybe the lyrics will help you out. ” Can’t get you out of my head, can’t get you out of my system, still wanting you I don’t care who knows it. 20 long years have passed, and I’m still pinin’ baby.” The song has a Supremes feel with background singers and a great tempo and snap-worthy pace in tow with horns and authentic instrumentation. This is a great song that seems to have a timeless quality. I can see my parents and my niece enjoying this all the same.
3. The Most
Featuring Roy Ayers
This may be one of the songs that garnered the comparisons to Badu. It’s not the voice in this song so much, but the musical construction. There is no substitution for live instruments and creating a moment when making music. That kind of care and consideration really translates magnificently on record, and this song is no exception. If you’re ever feeling down or know someone that is feeling down, this is a great song to put on. It’s a simple praise song that is so ambiguous that it works for anyone. Man, woman, adult, child, lover, friend, it covers all bases with it’s simplicity and sincerity. It’s right on time for me as I just had this conversation with someone the other day…
4. I Got Sunshine
Continuing in the uplifting tone from the last song, “I Got Sunshine” is a two steppers dream. The tempo and ill bass-work on this song along with the drums really create a great structure for Avery and her background singers once again. “No gas is in my tank, and I got myself to thank. I had to make 10 dollars last for three weeks ‘other day. All of my bills are due, don’t know what I’m gon’ do, gotta keep it moving til I get to my breakthrough.” This song should be how you kick the day off. Stay motivated, stay focused, and don’t let temporary problems trip you up.
5. I Need You Now
Without explanations or apologies, Avery loves her some God. There is no mistaking what this song is about…but don’t let that throw you. I think if Gospel music sounded like this on a regular basis, we’d be shouting in our car, at work, in the gym, anywhere you hear it. “I need you now, more than I needed you then. It’s been a while, but I still need my friend.” We all tend to run astray from time to time, and end up tripping ourselves up trying to get back to where we want/need to be. This song is that prayer for help. For those of you with aversion to organized religion, this song isn’t overly preachy or demanding, it’s a simple song of help, asking for help. Who can’t use a little help nowadays? I think in this economy, we are all looking for a little supernatural help to some natural problems. Amen?
7. Like This
After a quick interlude, we get back to the bones of the album. “Like This” is a 6 minute musical expression of those moments when you are gazing in your loved ones’ eyes, stroking their face, and saying nothing. Those moments when words aren’t enough and the silence seems to tell the entire story…this is the theme song for those moments…if that makes sense. It’s stating how none of these other beautiful things that are named, can take the place of that moment and how she feels about the person she loves. Words REALLY don’t do this song justice, you need to experience this song.
8. Ugly Part of Me
I’d assume this one is where a lot of the Jill Scott references came from. I won’t screw this up with words, enjoy the video.
We’ve all had bad days…the ones that seem to start going down hill as soon as you turn the alarm off. “Today, oh today, nothing seems to be going my way. Tryna keep my sanity is getting the best of me, today. Yes today.” Then it gets really real, “My baby’s dad is acting like a nut, my car is smoking it keeps acting up. I feel like I’m about to lose my head, my strength is getting weak y’all. My boss is acting like he’s smoking crack. Want me to work 2 shifts back to back. Don’t wanna say something I’ll regret, so I’ll censor what I say today…” The music on this one really has a jam session feel to it as it’s lose and random at times giving it a really honest feel. It sounds like they were playing and she started verbalizing what they were all feeling. I’d really love to hear this one live.
10. Blessin’ Me
You see the title, we’re going back to church. Horns, keys, strings, and drums all give this song that authentic baptist church feel and the lyrics follow right along. This song is great for praise and worship at your local church. She has once again, managed to make a Gospel song without making it feel like you are being preached AT instead of ministered to by her testimony.
12. Just Not Tonight
After another short but well produced interlude, we get to this gem. It’s an acoustic dramatic monologue. “I gotta let it go (3x) yes I do…if I wanna be right. Need to let’cha go (3x)mmmmmhm, if I wanna live right.” Now, with the context of the song, it appears to be about letting that side piece go…ending an affair. I can remember having this conversation with myself, damn near verbatim when I was a wild and crazy teen trying to do more than I needed to be doing. I had this conversation several times…and it ended just like this song does very often. “….need to let’cha go (3x) mmmmhmmm…just not tonight.” Often times, relationships that start off as one thing, transition themselves and give you more than what you bargained for, and that can be hard to walk away from.
13. Big Mama (Hidden Track)
I may be reading too much into this song, but I’ll go ahead and share what I got from it. The track is musically a banger for the club scene. It’s truly a party song and the guest of honor is you. We tend to overlook ourselves at times and even take our own person for granted. This song is saying, “it’s me, I’m amazing, and I know it.” I guess it could be the Daily Affirmation song like the Saturday Night Live skit.
So does she live up to the hype? Emphatically I say yes. This is the best surprise I’ve had all year. It may be my station in life, it may be her skill and ability or better yet, it may be her blessing, but this album is my favorite of the year. I’ve only listened to other music in my personal time (not doing reviews) as to deter me from wearing this album out. I love every single bar, note, moment, and second of this album and I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t either. I truly believe that even outside of the personal chords it struck with me, musically this album is flawless. When I do reviews on nappyafro it’s obvious that rappers are trying to capture the magic of The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic, Ready To Die in that it had something for everyone and was eclectic and perfect. The most recent album that I can think of that would personify that as it pertains to R&B would be The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That is, until now. As corny as it may be to say, “It doesn’t take all day to recognize Sunshine.”
Soulections: Didn’t you read the review? Every single song is a winner.
*I’ve been doing reviews for a few years now and I have NEVER given a perfect score to any until now*
score has been updated from a 10/10 to a 5/5 to reflect our changing rating system