For a wildly successful commercial artist to reach his or her artistic stride right when the commercial audience decides to turn their attention to the new, underdeveloped ingÃ©nue of the moment has a certain irony. As a phenomenon it is also stunningly commonplace. It happened to 112 on the underrated Pleasure and Pain and Boyz II Men on their fourth offering, Nathan Michael Shawn and Wanya.
For a wildly successful commercial artist to reach his or her artistic stride right when the commercial audience decides to turn their attention to the new, underdeveloped ingÃ©nue of the moment has a certain irony. As a phenomenon it is also stunningly commonplace. It happened to 112 on the underrated Pleasure and Pain and Boyz II Men on their fourth offering, Nathan Michael Shawn and Wanya. Brandy shared a similar experience with her woefully underappreciated Afrodisiac.
For those who may not know him anymore, Craig David was a teenage international phenomenon whose 2001 debut album, Born To Do It, went gold, platinum or multi-platinum in almost every major music market in the globe, driven by the two-step hits "Fill Me In" and "7 Days." The twenty-something Brit's follow-ups Slicker Than Average (2002) and The Story Goes (2005) did brisk, if declining, business and charted top ten hits, but by the 2007 release of Trust Me, nobody sans critics was paying attention. The album debuted in the Top 20 and has undeservedly been freefalling ever since. David's brilliant soul pop album is particularly uncomfortable for a curmudgeon like me, since I dogged this guy to anyone who would listen at a time when listeners across the globe saw stars in his large puppy dog eyes and grating, heavily accented phrasing. Now that I'm eating crow and singing this guys praises, folks have tuned out. I seem to be a contrarian to the end.
If you've tuned out for an artist good as or better than David proves here, then fine. But if Lloyd and The Dream is what you've turned to for your rhythmic pop fix, please accept my tap on your shoulder as a friendly gesture and my redirection as an effort to save your-and music's-soul. Craig David's Trust Me doesn't have one single missed opportunity to impress. Not one. Some moments are admittedly strained in their efforts to please previous pop fans, such as a Beatles-tinged message music of "Top of The Hill" and the High School Musical of "Officially Yours." Even these more obvious tunes, however, are done with a storyteller's skill and a fine ear for the genre.
Now let's get to what makes Trust Me a ridiculous R&B project. Song after song, Craig David has written and arranged an album of catchy melodies, easy lyrics, and knock â€˜em out the ballpark instant radio hits. If Usher had released this as the follow-up to Confessions instead of Here I Stand, Justin Timberlake wouldn't ever be in the running for that Prince of Pop moniker again. Then again, if radio didn't have short-term memories when it comes to "new vets," David's latest venture, released late last year, would be on its third platinum single by now. "6 of 1 Thing," "Friday Night," "Awkward," and "Just A Reminder" is a four-song stretch of peppy live instrumentation, seamlessly adept transitions and always accessible music that can carry you from the dance floor to the boudoir without skipping a beat. On Trust Me, Craig David never forgets that music is supposed to entertain as much as it is to be an appreciable work of art.
Craig David's voice, the very thing that made me yearn for him to be struck with lifetime laryngitis, has gained weight, calm and a smoothed out accent with age. It works best when he is arranged within an inch of his life, in constant motion or produced with an eye on restraint. David doesn't try to be Luther, Martin, Donny or Stevie; maturity and time has taught him that his voice isn't that voice. His is a flexible tenor that services well crafted pop songs right into international consciousness, next generation TV commercials and Music Halls of Fame. Like his UK soul brother, Lemar, David's vocals on the standout groove "Awkward" even manage to make me like Joss Stone again as a duet partner.
David with producer Martin Terefe did for me what long-time producer/collaborators Mark Hill and the Artful Dodger never pulled off on previous David efforts: smart subtlety. The famous samples and interpolations chosen for the uptempo jams, David Bowie's "Let's Dance" for "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)" and the Stylistics' "You Are Everything," intelligently do what a well chosen sample is suppose to do: using familiar, instantly warming music to provide subtext to the new lyric. Each time the sample is complimented by contemporary production that infuses it with flavorful bumps and beats.
I rarely eat crow. It's a particularly gamey dish that doesn't agree with my sarcastic, declarative nature. However, Craig David can spoon it to these lips by the mouthful. On his fourth time out the gate, David has given me a dish worth savoring, Trust Me. Highly recommended.
-L. Michael Gipson