She burst onto the R&B scene with "Emotional Rollercoaster" in 2002, and ever since then, Ms. Vivian Green has distinguished herself from the other R&B sirens (including her former employer, Jill Scott) by fashioning herself into a sweet, stirring voice for the woeful, weary and broken-hearted. With the tempering of time, as well as the living, loving and losing she'd done in-between A Love Story, 2005's Vivian and now---becoming engaged, leaving the relationship and becoming a mother----she's simply not as whimsical as she used to be; but her latest release, Beautiful,does display a singer and songwriter who's evolved into a savvier woman in the process. Yes, she may have been through twelve rounds with Love and experienced a TKO a time or two, but what matters isn't the number of losses, but the fact that she remained in the ring long enough to fight another round.
The five-year-hiatus between CDs has definitely worked out in Ms. Green's favor: not only is her pen game still strong (she co-wrote all thirteen tracks), her vocals are irresistibly impassioned and the entire collection has an organic, unhurried feel. She's also smart enough to resist the temptation of meddling with her signature sound, so it won't surprise fans to hear her belt with the bravado of a Broadway lead in the star-crossed lovers' vow, "Somewhere," or flip that sentiment into a saucy â€˜get lost' with one of the CD's standouts, "Better Man." Led by a skit with two men discussing their contrasting lifestyles, the song finds her rejecting the first man's trife life for the brother who's on the up-and-up: "Hey Mister, you're a misfit, once I got your digits I got you out my system: I had your number when I discovered, lost all respect for you as a man, forget a lover." The shimmering "Capable" paints her as a woman in love who wants to acknowledge her weakness for him, but that if she had to live bereft of his affections, she could: "I'm capable of living, capable of living without you, but I just don't want to. I'm capable of being, being without you, but I want you in my life."
She has fun with the faster tracks, but her selling points are the misty-eyed, moving ballads, especially the â€˜ode-to-my-baby,' "Jordan's Song," the adoring, borderline-gooey "One of None," and the CD's powerful title track, which is rendered so plaintively that the listener can practically envision Ms. Green with a pair of suitcases in each hand, singing the lyrics from the other side of a doorway as she leaves a careless lover with advice on how he'd better treat his next lady: "Hold her when she wants to be held, don't yell at her when she's only trying to love you. Take her to her favorite place, more often than not, don't take her kindness for weakness, cuz' I'm sure she'll love you a lot. Support her in all she does, don't tear her down, lift her up, cuz that is the worst thing you can do to someone you love. Put her high on a pedestal, and tell her when she looks beautiful. Tell her when she looks beautiful....."
An engaging, authentic release, Vivian Green's Beautiful proves that one doesn't have to rely on over-the-top vocal histrionics or over-processed/over-produced tracks to still make an impact. There's a time and place for the gut-scraping notes and the bombastic dance numbers, but when you're ready to reflect, release and relate to the ways of love, Vivian Green's Beautiful will take you there.
By Melody Charles