Dwele - Greater than One

Dwele
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The urge to merge:  instinctual as breathing and inevitable as growing up, there comes a time when “Be Without You” sounds better than “Single Life” and many start looking outward for legacy-building, contentment and companionship (spiritually and otherwise).  Dwele’s song catalog has always showcased the stages of love, but his sixth release, Greater Than One, delves deeper into murkier temptations and territories, using rich melodies, heightened harmonies and lucid lyrics to encapsulate a desire to commit without sacrificing the cool factor in the process.

The urge to merge:  instinctual as breathing and inevitable as growing up, there comes a time when “Be Without You” sounds better than “Single Life” and many start looking outward for legacy-building, contentment and companionship (spiritually and otherwise).  Dwele’s song catalog has always showcased the stages of love, but his sixth release, Greater Than One, delves deeper into murkier temptations and territories, using rich melodies, heightened harmonies and lucid lyrics to encapsulate a desire to commit without sacrificing the cool factor in the process.

If long-time fans or Dwele-come-lately listeners had high expectations due to his spectacular 2010 project, W.ants W.orld W.omen, the multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter doesn’t disappoint: there’s less bombast and boom-bap than on W.ants, since a distinctively 80s aura dominates this set, but its range is just as emotive and exciting.  Never one to phone in, the prolific Dwele writes or co-writes ten of the thirteen tracks while working the drum kit, keys and horns. Monica Blaire, Raheem DeVaughn, J Tait, L’ Renee and one-man hit machine Mike City contribute just enough of their talents to embellish Greater…  without overtaking its direction.

As the opening interlude demonstrates, the 30+ performer is coming to terms with relinquishing the player card, but is not quite ready for rings, kids and SUVs just yet, a brutal truth that he paid dearly for in the bittersweet, horn-laden jazzy soul hybrid “Going Leaving”: “She wanted more but I wasn’t ready, me keepin’ it real made her heart heavy….I can admit it, scared me when she said ‘where is this go-ING,’ I said ‘I’m not rea-DY,’ now she’s leav-ING….she wants chil-DREN, OOOH.”  One of the Mike City joints, the single “What Profit,” offers up syncopated rhythms and guitar-anchored grit on a cautionary tale about deserting your baby for the bling after getting large: “Deep inside your mind down to the depths of your soul/you see love lasts long, after all the money comes and goes. What profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his girl. If I were your man, I’d do all I can, to keep you Girl….”

Just as a relationship can arc outward as deeper emotions take root, the songs on Greater…. ripple and resonate as Dwele wades into deeper levels of honesty and oneness. “Takes22Tango” is a sinuous and salty exploration of a love that has potential to steal the show when they get their vertical rhythm right, and Raheem DeVaughn helps to double-down on the ‘give-her-good-love or else’ message during the mellow, but mesmerizing “What You Gotta Do.” Another intriguing track is “Obey,” with Dwele’s tenor solemnly promising ‘happily-ever-after’ as synthesized notes swell and surge beneath a fragile reunion.  “This Love” is a 180-degree turn-around and a likely culmination at the jewelry store, jubilant and flush with affectionate awe for his newly-christened missus.

Dwele may be contemplating future monogamy, but the present still leaves room for partying, heard on the glib “Must Be” while trading verses with Black Milk, L’Renee and J. Tait about the chaos that occurs “when we ain’t sober” and as he’s wading through a “Love Triangle,” a folly that clicked into place after two friends with eyes for Dwele decide to…..well, you can guess. “Patrick Ronald” (which must’ve been conceived after a Prince/The Time music marathon) is a club cut paying homage to the stomach-scraping beverage known as Patron that even allows Dwele to drop a few bars: “That girl, she lookin’ good/ she came up on me talmbout ‘whassup’ I said ‘my wood,/ sorry, that’s Patrick talkin.’” “Frankly My Dear (I’m Bennett I Ain’t Innit)” closes with repentance when as he plays tug-of-war with his lust and his logic after discovering that last night’s companion has a man: “But you sure is fine, and right now you’re mine/I should just be hesitant and use my common sense. On my shoulders there’s a good head, but I keep using my (bleeped out) instead.”

In the decade since his self-distributed debut Rize, Dwele could’ve stagnated within the neo-soul niche or chased bigger name recognition by dropping simpler and sex-starved R&B, but the Detroit native continues to evolve, fearlessly melding expansive lyrical insights with his masterful sense of musicality, making this CD an essential purchase and one of the Greater contemporary soul releases of 2012. Enthusiastically Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 

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