Review Summary: He’s made about as little progression in his music as one would expect from an artist in the mainstream R&B scene, but Songz’ sense of compassion in his personality is what puts him above the dozens of other shameless singers in the field.
Modern R&B is primarily plagued with the likes of Chris Brown, singers who judging by their lyrical content, enjoy stroking their dicks just as much as stroking their egos. They make music that is heavy on sexual themes but isn’t sexy in the least bit, turning entire albums into bone-headed, egotistical boasting sprees. It’s fortunate that in recent years artists that are actually inspired have thrown their hats into the ring and have gained some well-deserved recognition and acceptance into the mainstream.
Artists such as these, namely The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, are what modern R&B should sound like, and what the genre as a whole has been in dire need of. The music behind their voices is not an after-thought, leading to interesting experiments in beats and structures, and they convey authentic emotions such as vulnerability and intimacy through their voice and lyrics combined.
With the mainstream R&B scene receiving a new level of standard that it desperately needed, artists such as Trey Songz face some stiff competition. In his past work Songz has been guilty of displaying that same persona of crude self-promotion that artists like Chris Brown apply like make-up, but unlike Brown, Songz never let it be a permanent staple in his music or dominate him thematically, and he continues to make good use of this restraint on his obviously titled fifth album Chapter V.
Songz saves the booze-guzzling, female rear end obsessed side of him for the more party-oriented tracks on Chapter V to work in his favor commercially, while his ballads are of a completely opposite nature. What sets him apart from most modern R&B artists in these ballads is that he talks more about pleasing women in an relationship sense, than women pleasing him in a sexual sense. He gives a genuinely heartfelt impression, even tender at times, and while the contrast between his character on these ballads and his character on the soon to be chart climbing club cuts is contradictory at times, his compassion is still a rare quality to posses, and both sides of him never seem too less convincing even though the two don’t mesh well together.
Songz voice is obviously the main focus of attention on the album, and he sounds in great shape, crooning and soaring his lungs out with the by-the-books R&B melodies. The usage of auto-tune is something Chapter V lacks for the better, and expected guests such as T.I. and Lil Wayne appear to give Songz the rapping department that Chapter V would feel less relevant without. There are only a handful of tracks with featured guests so as to not take away the spotlight from Songz, another thing Chapter V gets right by not turning the record into a get together of an excessive amount friends on guest spots.
Even though Songz and his voice are the focal point of the album that is meant to receive undivided attention, effort and ambition is not absent from the music supporting him. Songz is content with surrounding himself in the glossy sheen of typical modern pop production, but the synthesizers often make for some rather loud and refreshingly prominent electronica factors, it doesn’t blend as cohesively as one would prefer, but the idea is nevertheless present.
All in all, Chapter V has some minor aspects in every department of its sound that are noticeable improvements over the sound of most other artists in mainstream R&B, and these aspects may not come together in the smoothest way, but they still shine through and raise Trey Songz slightly above the level of a mediocrity that his sound is notorious for, and will surely deliver some superior quality to his target demographic, who of which demands very little of music to begin with.