J Holiday - Round 2 (2009)

J Holiday
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Washington D.C.'s Nahum Grymes, aka J. Holiday, simply couldn't have asked for a better debut: 2007's Back of My 'Lac did more than hurl a pair of inescapable and often-imitated singles onto the charts ("Bed" and "Suffocate"); it reached gold status and earned him a Grammy nod for best contemporay R&B Album. And with today's music scene being focused on ringtone-ready hits instead of career-building longevity, would it surprise anyone if he played it safe in the 0-9 and made his sophomore set a receycled set of the same? Probably not, but thankfully, Mr. Holiday didn't go that route: Round 2, although it has a softer and more subtle approach than ...'Lac, doesn't lack its predecessor's kiss of cool or confidence.

Washington D.C.'s Nahum Grymes, aka J. Holiday, simply couldn't have asked for a better debut: 2007's Back of My 'Lac did more than hurl a pair of inescapable and often-imitated singles onto the charts ("Bed" and "Suffocate"); it reached gold status and earned him a Grammy nod for best contemporay R&B Album. And with today's music scene being focused on ringtone-ready hits instead of career-building longevity, would it surprise anyone if he played it safe in the 0-9 and made his sophomore set a receycled set of the same? Probably not, but thankfully, Mr. Holiday didn't go that route: Round 2, although it has a softer and more subtle approach than ...'Lac, doesn't lack its predecessor's kiss of cool or confidence.

Mr. Holiday's philosophy this time around seems to be 'less is more' both in technique and subject matter; Round 2 is sophisticated without splashy and over-done, a testament to his mixing it up on the production end (Ne-Yo, The Dream, The Platinum Brothers) and not attempting to rock multiple personas in the lyrics. His tenor, as smooth and buttery as ever, is well-suited to the romance-without-raunch vibe he's putting down, and Mr. Holiday retains just enough sex and swagger throughout to keep it imploding into a soft, sugary mess. "Lights Go Out," for example, is a pulsating promise of the naughtiness to come, and "Make That Sound," its fulfillment, finds him vowing to violate the sound ordinance just because ("I got plans to make you scream, til' you get close, to losing your voice."). "Sing 2 U" finds him name-checking his influences (Chi-Lites, Jodeci) in the midst of seduction, and his lead single, "It's Yours," may have a bit of the "Bed" residue around the edges, but he's displaying more vulnerabliity here than boudoir skills ("Hold my heart don't break it, baby it's yours). Another 'playa card' surrendering track, the mid-tempo "Fall," finds him bewildered over catching feelings for a woman that he had no intention of moving into the top spot: "Have you ever met someone, that you thought was for the moment, and they came and stole your heart, before you knew that it was stolen?"

Like most other releases, however, Mr. Holiday sometimes bites off more than he can chew: "Wrong Lover," the CD's lone danceable track, enlists rapper Rick Ross for street cred, but the two don't exactly mesh, and although it's well-intentioned, fans may wonder what the purpose is behind "Homeless": "There's a man, on the street, he's got holes in the shoes, on his feet. We be in the club, spendin' dough, then we come outside and tell him 'no.' " "Forever Ain't Enough" could induce cavities after multiple spins, and "I Tried," even as he rues a soured union, ends the CD on an unconvincing note. Still with these missteps, Round 2 is a solid listen that won't disappoint his 'Lac fans or for anyone else who enjoys well-executed contemporary R&B.

By Melody Charles

 
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