Whatever term you feel most comfortable using----skills, game, even je ne sais quoi--- Faith Evans is one of those performers who just, well, has it. Fifteen years have passed since she hit the music scene with her urban-edged honeyed soprano, lyrical prowess and a propensity to, intentionally or not, evoke drama on and off-stage. However, judging from her Grammy Award, millions in album sales and a NY Times best-selling autobiography, many can't resist picking up what she's putting down. So with the release of her fifth studio CD, Something About Faith, the 37-year-old performer rewards her fans for their loyalty with some of her most confident and compelling music yet.
Something..., in comparison to 2005's The First Lady, has three more full-length tracks and the most collaborative songs to be featured in one spot, thanks to the appearances of both evolving and established artists, such as Estelle, Raekwon, Lil Mo, Kelly Price, Keyshia Cole and Snoop Dogg (thankfully, not all at the same time). Producers like Malik Pendleton, Mike City, Chucky Thompson and Carvin and Ivan help with the heavy lifting, but Ms. Evans is in full creative control and pours her very essence into the music. Since she's one of those sangers (no, that's not a typo) who can belt out the fine print on a credit card statement and turn it into a Top Ten ringtone; the guests serve more as variety rather than support. The first collabo, "Way You Move," is pleasant, if too safe for its own good; but who knew that she and Keyshia Cole would complement one another as well as they do in the synth-driven, Slick Rick-interpolating "Can't Stay Away," or that she could be as grimy as Redman on the twitching and pulsating "Party"?
As expected, Faith's lovely and lilting range works best with the ballads, such as the extended opening intro and what could become an anthem for those looking at the front door, "Gone Already." Tenderly conveyed, but revealing a tough-love stance, the song lists a litany of shortcomings before Faith chucks the deuces and walks away for good: "I was feelin' like a dead man walkin', not from all the pain you're causin'/hoping that things would change, but you never gave me that option....this is not the way love should be, I guess you're not the man for me." Another intriguing cut is one that makes the listener wish she would explore her jazzy side more often, "Real Things," which has her celebrating the little intangible traits that keep her happy, rather than the status symbols: "....buying expensive gifts to substitute for what you feel, it's not really showing love/that's not what we're made of, spending the cash won't keep right, the real things in life."
Thanks to her status as hip-hop's most famous widow (in addition to the, er, recent brush with the law), it can be easy for folks to dismiss or forget the reasons that the Newark, NJ native became so famous to begin with. For those who need a reminder, or for the fans who've felt bereft of her vocal renderings since The First Lady and need to update the iPod, Faith Evans' fifth CD marks a welcome return and offers that special Something you've been waiting for. Highly Recommended.
By Melody Charles