Chrisette Michele is an artist that has continued to throw curve balls at her fans since 2007′s I Am, her debut album. Three studio albums and two mixtapes later, she’s as strong, confident and sexy as ever…..but ironically more vulnerable than ever too. On I am, she was the good girl who wasn’t giving up much more than a kiss on a first date. She was wholesome, powerful, but she lacked an edge. On her second album, Epiphany, she started to come into her own and showcased more of a confidence that was new to her listeners. This is perhaps most evident on that album’s title track and lead single, “Epiphany”. Here she finally musters up the nerve to kick a cheating, no good boyfriend to the curb…..with a sweet southern smile still in tact. Soon after, we saw her delve more into more Hip Hop inspired tracks, with a street edge, on her third album, Let Freedom Reign. She collaborated with Rick Ross, Talib Kweli and Black Thought. Even the love songs on that album had a slight militant vibe to them. Take “I Don’t Know Why, But I Do” for instance (written by John Legend and Jazmine Sullivan). She knows the man she’s in love with isn’t the best one for her, but there’s an unapologetic air that she carries that’s irresistible. Take that Rihanna. Now, Chrisette Michele has dramatically changed her image with a short-cropped natural cut, noticeably smaller frame, and more eclectic music (check out “Favela Chic” and “Your Fair Lady” from her Audrey Hepburn…. mixtape). But the question now is has all this change and evolution made her better?
YES! Chrisette Michele’s latest studio album, Better, is simply put, just that. She takes some of the power house vocals she’s always been known for (“Better), and mixes them with newfound wisdom (“Charades” featuring 2 Chains – also from her Audrey Hepburn….. mixtape) and sex appeal (“Love In The Afternoon” featuring Nello Luchi). She goes back to her roots in a way, considering the majority of Better focuses on the core of R & B. There’s the butterflies of a new love, being in the midst of love and the pain of love lost. On one of the singles, “A Couple of Forevers” she takes a brilliant sample from the classic “Stairway to Heaven” and sings “I’m not asking for much/Just a couple of forevers….I’m the only one/ You’re the only one”. This song is smooth and timeless in its own right. Her voice is perfect on this track. The title track “Better” finds her hopeful for new love, although you can hear a tinge of disappointment of failed relationships in her voice. But to her credit, most people wish they sounded this good talking about their search for love. On “Snow” she cautions her lover that she wants to give in and be free, but she’s a afraid to let her walls down. Lyrically, this song is very interesting. Another lyrical whirlwind is “Visual Love”. This is definitely one of the album’s standout tracks and also one of the most upbeat. She boldly says “Your eyes tell me you love me/But I don’t think you do”. She’s saying that she’s more than eye candy and shooting down any man who wants her just for her looks.
Better is not without its pitfalls, or more appropriately – speed bumps, as with virtually any album. However, there isn’t a bad song here (and the deluxe version has 20 tracks). There are just some songs that are better than others, no pun intended. “Supa” has intricate vocal arrangements and a soft rock vibe, complete with a crying guitar and a bass line that sounds like water droplets. I can’t say this is necessarily radio single, but it’s one of the best songs on the album hands down. It takes the kind of musical risk that I’ve learned to love and respect about Chrisette Michele. Speaking of risks, she turns up the confidence-o-meter to the max on “Ten Foot Stilletos”. It’s part neo soul, part R & B and part Funk (if there is such a genre). To top it all off, it was produced by singer/songwriter Musiq Soulchild. He should definitely produce for others more often. This track has radio appeal and will more than likely hit big in clubs for the grown and sexy. “Get Through The Night” is easily her most vulnerable moment (complete with an in-depth interlude preceding it). The track is backed with an adult contemporary, latin inspired bare bones guitar riff that pair perfectly with her voice. The production here really allows Chrisette Michele to showcase her amazing voice and how well she can control it. “I know I’ll smile in the daytime/Wait for the sunlight…../Just gotta get through tonight”. I personally think she’d be making a mistake if this song isn’t released as a single or at least to radio.
Trust me, if you’re into R & B music, this is one you don’t want to miss out on. There’s a reason why Chrisette Michele is “better” than most of her peers in the music industry.