Winston Warrior - Lifeology 101...Back 2 School
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For his second full-length release, Atlanta-based crooner Winston Warrior revisits cuts from his 2011 debut, Lifeology 101, and offers a handful of new selections. An independent artist who describes his style as "vintage R&B," he impressed listeners the first time around with heartfelt tunes like "Crossroads" and "Tuck U In," which blended meaningful lyrics with pleasantly neo-soul arrangements.
Unfortunately, the scope of Lifeology 101...Back 2 School is not as substantial as its predecessor. While Winston doesn't have the most powerful voice on the block, he does possess an agreeable tone and smoothly executed phrasing which are appealing in several musical contexts. The problem is, most of the selections on his latest disc come off more as style-conscious productions than solid compositions. Even with vocal finesse, the new songs on ...Back 2 School feel rushed and devoid of much melodic or lyrical consideration. Perhaps the most disappointing example of this is "Livin' My Life," a predictable affair of recycled beats and formulaic lyrics. "Flash bulbs, lights, camera and paparazzi/Poppin' bottles, champagne flowin' up in VIP," begins the number. Winston proceeds to inform listeners, "It's all good, but y'all don't know everything, all I've been through to realize this dream/...Now I can party and bullshit." If this qualifies as "vintage R&B," then the standards have been frustratingly lowered.
"Elevator" first appeared on Winston's debut disc and is presented here in three remixes. If not making the most imaginative use of metaphorical language, the ditty does whet the appetite with engaging verses, which are best served by the well-conceived TG Intimate Mix (the CD's opening track). But the momentum quickly wanes with the meandering midtempo, "The Only Girl (4 Me)," which lacks enough range to compel the listener for more than a minute. Furthermore, "Sex in the Rain" is too repetitive and consumed with sonic gimmicks to achieve its desired sensuality. "Holdin On" and "Still in Love with U," however, are commendable moments among the new offerings. "Still" yields a memorable hook with a head-nodding groove, while "Holdin On" relays a relatable story line with satisfying vocal arrangements.
...Back 2 School closes with four remixes, three of which are house adaptations by producer Dave Doyle. The resulting new beat structure and keyboard flourishes are amenable to "Bad 4 U" and "Keep Movin'," although nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
In an age where high-quality, musical programming tools are readily available, and independent artists can quickly distribute product to the masses, the loopholes of Lifeology 101...Back 2 School serve as a caution that sturdy material and authentic production values are still essential. In these respects, Winston Warrior's latest disc is considerably vacuous. With his innate talent, however, he is surely capable of following up with a more grounded and satiating follow-up. He just might need to get some more creative collaborations going and pay more mind to the details in the process. Cautiously Recommended.
by Justin Kantor