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Though Cliched, ‘Charlie’ Features Smooth Vocals And Production

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01

With Valentine’s Day approaching, Love, Charlie should be declared the official album of the 2013 lover’s season. However, early before the album is over we get to a point when we’re like: “Yes, Charlie we get it. You like this person a lot. Now tell me something I don’t know.” Wilson tends to fall into popular conventions that anyone who has listened to 30 minutes of the radio has heard more than once. What keeps us listening to this album, though, is Wilson’s expert vocal abilities in combination with the superb level of production present on nearly every track included.

For this reason, “My Love is All I Have” is probably the best track on the album. Even though, as the title suggests, these lyrics don’t pose much of a new concept, every inflection of his voice just carries the track to glory. Also, this downbeat, deep range of music suits his tone perfectly, and is used a few places on the album.

The same is true for the bedroom ballad, “Turn Off The Lights.” While being very unapologetically similar to songs (both in and outside of his repertoire) that pose the same theme, Wilson pulls it off gracefully. His vocals soar. Regardless, the musical production on that track deserves credit for making the song work. The whistling is reminiscent of some of 2012’s biggest hits and is comforting because it is really catchy as of late. However, we could still do without the “erupting like a volcano” imagery.

The last of the three best tracks comes right after on the track list. “A Million Ways to Love You” represents the most skillful writing on the album. Again, not a very foreign concept, but compared to the other songs it is the least cliche driven track. Backed by only a well-crafted percussion section and a few keyboards, this song gives Wilson a place to vocally embarrass many other acts who considers themselves to be singers.

The strongest part of this album besides Wilson’s vocals is the production. While for the modern R&B listener these combinations might come off as a bit outdated, most arrangements are familiar enough to appeal to the modern listener. This comes with the exception of the upbeat track “My Baby,” which sounds like a song off a 1980s urban contemporary movie (which probably didn’t do well). This song ridiculously includes scatting, a funky bass pattern, and a weird electronic lead arpeggiator.

On the other side of the spectrum another fail comes to the forefront in the form of the song, “Oooh Wee.” Unlike the last, this song falls onto the opposite extreme of unworthiness to be on this album. It falls into the trap of mimicking the contemporary production style of our time, and in its attempt to make something original and fresh the track comes off as forced and unnatural.

Love, Charlie as a whole, however, overcomes the common mistake made by the lesser-known greats to create a work that will “sell” to the masses. Usually that formula typically makes the music much worse than it would have been had the artist stayed true to themselves. And with an artist like Charlie Wilson, who has worked with every hip hop artist from Snoop Dogg to Kanye West, this album could have easily become like most contemporary R&B: a collection of beats with a voice happening to sing above.

As a result, this album represents a noble effort by a great in his own right who does not have to try hard to stay relevant. We thoroughly see that he definitely has what it takes to create great music, and even with the subtle mistakes, his album is worth a few listens.

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