Committed - Committed

Committed
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Of course, they can sing. With the sheer skill of their undeniable voices, the Alabama graduates--and one student--of Oakwood University and winners of season two of The Sing-Off set a high bar that the current crop of show contestants are only just able to meet, briefly making the Southern gents reality TV phenoms with more than a bit of potential staying power. Of course, you’re only as good as your last success, and the endurance of the fellas’ power is realized or dissipates based on the strength or weakness of their once much-anticipated debut project (so fast do our collective interests move on, that today’s media wunderkinds already seem primed for “where are they now?” specials within months). So, with their self-titled debut, are these torchbearers for the mantle of R&B and Gospel a cappella King already prepped to be a footnote for a VH1 marathon, or are they ready for their next 15 minutes?

Of course, they can sing. With the sheer skill of their undeniable voices, the Alabama graduates--and one student--of Oakwood University and winners of season two of The Sing-Off set a high bar that the current crop of show contestants are only just able to meet, briefly making the Southern gents reality TV phenoms with more than a bit of potential staying power. Of course, you’re only as good as your last success, and the endurance of the fellas’ power is realized or dissipates based on the strength or weakness of their once much-anticipated debut project (so fast do our collective interests move on, that today’s media wunderkinds already seem primed for “where are they now?” specials within months). So, with their self-titled debut, are these torchbearers for the mantle of R&B and Gospel a cappella King already prepped to be a footnote for a VH1 marathon, or are they ready for their next 15 minutes?

Well, yes and no. By delivering a freshman outing that is solid, but not as exceptional as their talent suggested throughout their winning Sing-Off run, Committed could be dangerously close to looming irrelevance. Which is a shame, given the obvious enthusiasm and harmonic A-game Dennis “DJ” Baptiste, Tommy Gervais, Geston Pierre, Robert Pressley, Maurice Staple, and Theron “Therry” Thomas bring to their debut; the shortcomings of their project are due to no fault of their own. It is in the occasionally lazy arrangements, unimaginative production, and overly safe, commercial approach to guys whose technique and skilled talents are quite frankly bigger than their producers and label believe if these anemic pop tracks are any indication. Blessedly, this lack of faith doesn’t completely undue the album and that rescue is because of the charming fellows who sing like larks throughout, nailing songs like Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings” and wrestling an accapella cover of Stevie Wonder’s “As” out of their producer’s uninspired hands.

The sextet that has been hailed as the second coming of Boyz II Men suffers the most when they are presented with material and arrangements better suited for the smaller pop and soul quartet, like the opener “Forever,” its follow-up “Unstoppable,” the depressingly unnecessary “Do Anything,” and an album version of the single “Breakfree.” Their self-penned “hit” that didn’t is a moody song of the “Girl in the Life Magazine” or “Pass You By” variety, one lacking much needed tension and could have greatly benefited from an uptick in tempo (the bonus “Radio Mix” is a bit better about this, but only a bit). As much as some of the producers try, Committed is not Boyz II Men, and they shouldn’t have to be. If these guys haven’t quite discovered their vocal signature, the young men still have their own hip, youthful vibe that tends to be most constrained when they are placed in an ill-fittingly tight, Top 40 box, like on their note faithful cover of Usher’s “U Got It Bad.” They are also a pure group, each able to confidently lead but lacking that breakout frontman with chops as powerful and broad as they are unique. In other words, the guys meant to be B2M have no Wanya to boast. But, here again they don’t need one, if properly handled. If there was ever an a cappella group that needed an imaginative arranger like Mervyn Warren (who incidentally, guys, is from your hometown…hint, hint) or even the proven BeBe Winans to open them up and take advantage of what is so richly present among these six distinct voices, it’s these guys. Only on the trendy, ready-made for Boyz anthem, “Nothing Without You,” and the doo-wop, “That’s When I’ll Get Over You,” do the gentlemen finally have room to shine on some original soul pop tunes.

On the plus side, the album has plenty going for it, namely harmonies for days, enough to recommend it to any R&B and contemporary gospel fan looking for a resoundingly good time. The mix of thoroughly well-performed inspirational gospel, pop, and R&B classics with a smattering of originals is a relaxed listening affair scrubbed clean of any edge or potential offenses; it’s Glee, only wholesome. And, never more so than on the show-stopping gospel numbers, “Soon Ah Will Be Done” (a dead ringer for Take 6’s “Time After Time” and “I’m On My Way” from that group’s So Much 2 Say album) and the angelic featherbed of classical voice that is “It Is Well” (featuring a positively operatic Erica Campbell of Mary Mary). Both betray the true inspiration for these singer’s singers, and it’s not Boyz II Men or Top 40 cuts like “Grenade,” but rather the timeless music of the legendary Take 6. That iconic sextet offers a clear and successful blueprint for Committed and any producers fortunate enough to get their hands on these guys, should this boy group be afforded a second chance in this fickle marketplace. A listen to a more robustly produced take on Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” from last season’s show can’t help but remind a Sing-Off fan of the night Committed brought down the house with it and why America fell in love with these church boys playing bad in the first place. Their spot-on Green cover will make you wish more behind Committed’s boards could hear what we hear. Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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