Chandlar - Finally Got My Swagga Back (2008)

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What piqued my interest about the CD Finally Got My Swagga Back, the new record by Chicago native Chandlar, is that he turns the prevailing cultural view of swagger on its head. Swagger - or the more street appropriate, "swagga"- is apparently the new groove, a decidedly male version. Swagga is a cultural concept defined as a deliberate style of walking which projects an aura of self-assurance.

Still, somehow the definition falls short. Culturally, swagga is more than that, but harder to pin down. In that way, the concept kind of reminds me of what the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography: he couldn't define it, but he knew it when he saw it. A man with swagga has more than just a cool walk. He has the self-assurance to accomplish whatever task he chooses to take on. In the popular culture, that task usually involves attracting members of the opposite sex or collecting material items.

What piqued my interest about the CD Finally Got My Swagga Back, the new record by Chicago native Chandlar, is that he turns the prevailing cultural view of swagger on its head. Swagger - or the more street appropriate, "swagga"- is apparently the new groove, a decidedly male version. Swagga is a cultural concept defined as a deliberate style of walking which projects an aura of self-assurance.

Still, somehow the definition falls short. Culturally, swagga is more than that, but harder to pin down. In that way, the concept kind of reminds me of what the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography: he couldn't define it, but he knew it when he saw it. A man with swagga has more than just a cool walk. He has the self-assurance to accomplish whatever task he chooses to take on. In the popular culture, that task usually involves attracting members of the opposite sex or collecting material items.

Old Spice encapsulates this concept perfectly in commercials featuring L.L. Cool J and Brian Urlacher shilling for the company's new deodorant, Swagga. The commercials are funny, in part, because the spots satirize the concept of swagga as being solely connected to physical strength, attractiveness and the acquisition of luxury possessions.

On Finally Got My Swagga Back, Chandlar dares to link swagga to his ability to communicate. Swagga, for Chandlar, becomes linked to being self-assured enough to express feelings of love, vulnerability and a longing for human connection. In short, Chandlar is self-confident enough to show his humanity.

Now, Chandlar's version of swagga will only gain traction if he creates music people want to hear. Through Finally..., Chandlar proves successful in achieving both aims, sharing his vulnerability while maintaining his swagga on songs you want to hear.

For example, on the straight-forward, mid-tempo head nodder, "Tear Your Walls Down," Chandlar attempts to woo a reluctant woman by laying bare his yearning to have a relationship with the object of his desire: 

"It starts with one moment/A simple question/That you don't seem to understand/So closed and defensive/Leaving me helpless/Because you seem to put a wall between you/And me."

There are other strong songs on Finally.... Through "This Time," Chandlar expresses regret about being unfaithful. Realizing the grass is not greener on the other side; he revealingly shares his hopes for a second chance. While on the ballad "Lay Down B-Side U," Chandlar displays a vocal range that will draw easy comparisons. Many will hear the influence of singers such as Maxwell on this track - both in Chandlar's phrasing and approach to the track's relaxed tempo. On another mid-tempo groove, the soulful "Keep Doin' Me Like That," Chandlar provides a strong answer to members of the opposite sex who complain about men failing to express their sexual desires in an intimate, yet tasteful way.

With Finally Got My Swagga Back, Chandlar aptly demonstrates his ability to reinterpret "swagga." The album is one the ladies will love. And for those fellas who can't quite figure out how to get a little verbal swagga, you could do a lot worse than listening to this CD for inspiration. Recommended

Howard Dukes

 
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