Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ryan Leslie's Stagnant "Transition"

Why is Ryan Leslie releasing another album so soon? His self-titled debut dropped in February of this year. Transition, his sophomore effort, will hit stores during the first week of November.

Generally speaking, Transition isn't a bad album; it's just that his debut was so good. Not good in the sense that Leslie is a particularly dynamic producer or singer, but good because he managed to handle the album's material so well in spite of all of that. What Leslie lacks in vocal ability and musical diversity he makes up for in sentiment. Ryan Leslie didn't always sound good, but it always felt good.

In that sense, Transition is more of the same. In fact, it's basically the same album. Entirely written, produced and composed by Leslie (Dream complex much?), there's nothing remotely original here. If Transition were his debut I probably wouldn't be as disappointed in Leslie, but as it stands, there's really no reason to hail this offering.

"Never Gonna Break Up" comes with just enough retro-soul to standout amongst the rest of the album's redundancy, but that's really the only thing that makes the song special. "Zodiac" is nice, but Trey Songz would have handled it better. Elsewhere, it's just never necessary for Leslie to consistently rap as he does on "Something That I Like," which features Pusha T from the Clipse, an actual rapper that puts Leslie's performance into ill-conceived perspective.

In terms of writing, we get it Ryan -you're a former playboy who now has endless good-boyfriend potential. Again, that's something listeners were able to gather from Leslie's debut. Songs like "Nothing," where he insists "I'd be just half a man without you" are like stale, clearance-priced versions of better material. Unfortunately the album relies on that angle for a majority of its subject matter. Even the song titles wreak of commitment: "I Choose You," Guardian Angel," Is it Real Love?"

It's not that there's anything wrong with romance, it's just that there's too much of everything on Transition. Too much love. Too much snare. Too much undeserved bravado. The only thing lacking here is range.

Transition should have been a Ryan Leslie re-release. Think Rihanna riding Good Girl Gone Bad until nearly every song had been a single. Think Chris Brown extending Exclusive "Forever." Instead, Leslie walked away from a good thing to pursue an underwhelming imitation. There's definitely some sort of romantic, life imitating art irony in all of that. I'm not interested enough to invest in figuring it out though.

On a related note, can producers-turned-artists start branching out? Producing one hot song on Fabolous' album does not justify 12 medicore versions of the same song on your own album. I'm looking at you too Dream.

Here's the video for Leslie's first single, "You're Not My Girl." He can't dance either. Check that shoulder move 19 seconds in.

Am I sleeping on Leslie's brilliance? Let me know.


token said...

Although there's a few things I'd agree with in this review, overall I disagree. He's bringing back that organinc, melodic sound that were missing and desperately need. And tho I also feel he couldve diversified his subject matter more, I believe his songwriting is top notch, and very relatable. He's not worrying about radio or what's "hot" now, he just makes good music in an era where its virtually non-existent. It took a lil longer to grow on me and tho not quite as strong as his debut, I feel its a great r&b album and quite timeless as well. I just don't think the 16-25 demo understands this kinda music but the real music lovers will...

Patrick said...

All I can do is smh @ you. You are very lost my friend! Hopefully in time you will be able to understand the brillance and amazing energy generated from his musical artform. Need some convincing? Watch any youtube of Ryan making a beat! Crazy energy...

So crazy its convinced me to re-enter my musical aspirations. Infectious energy!