Album review: Chrisette Michele - Epiphany

Album review: Chrisette Michele - Epiphany
Chrisette is a lady (who like Keyshia Cole and Mary J. Blige before her) has gone and crafted an album about relationships that've gone down the crapper; with the occasional glimpse into a love gone right. But the album;s mostly about the shitty loves. Whilst this sounds depressing and like your bog standard fare, Epiphany brings a collection of cool and well written songs into the fray, along with a lovely gloss that makes the drama fun - thanks to Rodney Jerkins and Ne-Yo. 2 dudes who are no strangers to writing kiss off songs that radio loves.

Album opener and title track "Epiphany" is an easy breezy kiss off to a silly n***a who, about how he did wrong and missed his boat. No depressing guitars and piano's here. And no pain stricken vocals from Chrisette. Just a lovely summer time bounce with a beautiful twinkly piano and optimistic vocals. A brilliant song that I'm sure every female who has dumped a guy and felt liberated as a result can relate to, and smile to as they sing along. This song sets the tone for many of the songs, with Chrisette singing about how she deals with love in different situations and under different guises. Things slow down with "Notebook" which unlike the boldness of "Epiphany" has Chrisette singing about keeping her feelings to her self and jotting them down in her notebook. Whilst "What you do" has Chrisette declaring to her man that words aren't enough and she needs his actions to be speaking louder than his words.

Epiphany has so many highlights that it's difficult to pick and choose. The Darkchild produced "Playing our song" is about a topic that has been worked in songs before - a song on the radio reminding you of a love you desperately want to let go of. Tried and tested lyrics giving a new angle and point of emotion due to Chrisette's vocal delivery. She sells this song and you feel her for the whole 3 and half minutes she pours her heart out. This would make an amazing single. The sound is radio friendly, timeless, and the chorus is incredibly anthemic. "Mr. Right" is a distinctly Lauryn Hill sounding joint on which Chrisette croons about finally finding her, well...Mr. Right of course! You get the deal by now right? Writing a synopsis on every single song would have them all come off the same. But upon listening to the album, there are no 2 songs that are a like. Musically they differ and lyrically the all stem from different perspectives and situations of a relationship that isn't the most stable. The album never hits a point where you get tired of anything.

Chrisette's vocals are top notch. She doesn't hit every note perfect, but the fact she doesn't is what makes her vocals all the more real. "Blame it on me" is the best example of this. Chrisette's vocals crack and hit a couple of wrong notes - but her vocals are so powerful and emotionally driven that you honestly don't care. Chrisette's voice sells every song on the album. Whether she's singing about heartbreak or being happy, she makes you believe in what she's singing and feel what she feels. It's easy to sing and sound good, it's another thing entirely to sing with feeling. THIS is what takes talent, and Chrisette is in no short supply of that.

A special mention has to go to Ne-Yo who, whose influence is evident throughout the entire album. We all knew from "So sick" that the dude was a talent when it came to the song writing, but his penmanship truly does shine on this album - more so than any of the other work he's done. Not only because he wrote half of the songs on the album; but because Chrisette is able to bring the songs to life with the honesty and boldness of her vocals. Giving them an edge that would not be easy to match for another female vocalist. Even the likes of the Beyondroid. "Irreplaceable" was nice and she did a great job. But in terms of sheer raw emotion, Chrisette shits all over her Ne-Yo penned effort. The only problem with some of the Ne-Yo penned songs is that he insists on contributing vocals which are noticeably his. Ne-Yo stamps several of the songs with his signature vocal arrangements to the point it sticks out and interrupts songs in some cases. Ne-Yo doesn't seem to know the art of blending his voice into the music and having it merge with the artists. Like say how Justin did on Madonna's Hard candy. He unobtrusively contributed backing vocals to Madonna's songs to the point where you had to listen HARD to tell when Justin came and went. Ne-Yo needs to master this art.

Epiphany is coated over in a very nostalgic and throwback vibe. But never so much so to the point where the album feels almost conceptual - as with say Amy Winehouse's 60's album Back to black. Every song has a classic sound, and an air of familiarity about it which makes the songs accessible. Whether you're an R&B head, or a Pop head - this album will appeal. I went into it not expecting it to really wow me. But it did just that: wowed me. Chrisette's voice is total ear candy, and I'm thrilled that she got given 12 solid songs to showcase it on.

Do not sleep on this album. One of the best, most candid and honest R&B 'n Pop hybrid releases I've heard since Brandy's Human. Stunning.


Album highlights:
■ Epiphany
■ Notebook
■ Blame it on me
■ Playing our song J's fave
■ Another one
■ On my own
■ Mr. Right
■ Porcelain doll
■ I'm okay

3 comments:

  1. Are you talking about Justin on "Miles Away"? Wow, I haven't listened to that sliver of gold in a while. But, when I heard Ne-Yo's version of "What You Do", I really liked his delivery. Chrisette doesn't carry the song the same way Ne-Yo did, and that's why I prefer the demo version over hers. Plus, in her version, you hear Ne-Yo doing background more strongly than he should, therefore overpowering Chrisette and leaving you to doubt her singing. The voices are in two different ranges and shouldn't be mixed.

    I played "Epiphany" on the radio like 100 times because my boss told me to. I could hear Ne-Yo's fingerprint all over it. T-SSSITHH-UHH. Still surprised the demo of that song didn't leak, given the dude's luck. I thought I was going to interview Chrisette at one point, but they gave us Electrik Red instead. Those b**ches is CRAZY! I'd be down with them in an alternate dimension.

    Looks like I need to give this album a listen, though. Never actually took the time out to do it. Shame on me for feeling weird around albums like these.

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  2. The demo version of "What you do" IS much better than Chrisette's version. I said the same thing when I first posted the song. He just put it down too correct for his own good. The same goes for Day 26's "Then there's you". Their version is actually rubbish compared to Ne-Yo's demo version.

    As for Justin, yeah: I'm referring to "Miles away" in particular. His voice just blends so nicely with Madonna's and is so slick that you have to listen hard to catch him. Unless you knew he actually contributed vocals to the song, you'd never know he was even on it.

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  3. Wow. I didn't even know there was a Day26 version of "Then There's You". Another CD I downloaded and never listened to in full.

    Ne-Yo just does the damn thing in general. The reason why he's so hard to beat is because he enunciates every single syllable that he sings with the intent of every note carrying some sort of connotation. There's no dialectical hindrances in his tone like in Chrisette Michele's songs or in the John Legend song, "Take Me Away". Whereas you're convinced John has a lisp (which adds character to the song, mind you), Ne-Yo just sails.

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