Review Summary: not the first or the best, but still important enough
Despite claims to the contrary, this isn't the first New Jack Swing album - not by a long shot. But that doesn't mean it didn't matter. R&B and pop were both enormously influenced by Guy
, which sold double platinum. Its main songwriter Teddy Riley became one of the most important producers of the era, recording for everyone from Michael Jackson to Mary J. Blige, eventually starting a second hit band, Blackstreet. As such, it's tempting to look at this as some ideal form of album. But that's not how it works.
works much better as a genre study than a proper album in and of itself. Although there are notable tracks on here that transcend - most notably, "Piece of My Love," passion distilled down to its purest form - as a rule, these songs are still skeletons of something greater. It sounds like Teddy Riley knew exactly how important and influential this music would be and decided to simply make ten tracks in the New Jack Swing style and release them. This is supported by the tumultuous background behind the album - one of the three members of the trio, Timmy Gatling, left the band before the album even released, even though he's featured on the album art (which is absolutely brilliant). It's easy to imagine that they simply rushed out what they could before they imploded.
Of course, I don't really know this. All I know are the facts I can read about the band like everyone else, and what I can hear. There's a lot of that, too: vocoder singing the hook and growling bass on "Spend The Night," guest vocals and organ on "Goodbye Love," and of course, the addictive rhythms of drums and keys on every track. Where not every track is a full-on earworm that sticks in your head for ages, each song is at least fun, and nice enough. That's the thing. Even if it doesn't come close to perfection, and even if the listener isn't being overly analytical about it like I've been throughout this review, it still sounds pretty great. Every time I listen to it, I like it a little bit more. There's a few really fantastic songs and nothing really bad, so it will sound nice to the average listener. And that's the goal.