Jon B - Helpless Romantic (2008)

Jon B
Jon_B_Helpless_Romantic_Album.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

While it may have been four years since the music world has heard new material from Jon B, his influence has remained pretty inescapable, evident in the ease that former N-Syncer Justin Timberlake and rocker-turned soulman Robin Thicke have been accepted after abandoning the pop life for R&B. Way back in the early 90's, it was Jonathan 'Jon B' Buck---a songwriter, producer and musician born of musical parents who grew up steeped in the rich legacy of soul---who caught all the derision and doubt for his choice to perform with the brothers. While his previous successes couldn't insulate him from imploding labels in the late 90's, Jon B refocused, regrouped and decided to maintain his hustle independently, and Helpless Romantic, his fifth studio CD, is his first effort to reconnect with old fans and re-establish his hard-won legacy.

While it may have been four years since the music world has heard new material from Jon B, his influence has remained pretty inescapable, evident in the ease that former N-Syncer Justin Timberlake and rocker-turned soulman Robin Thicke have been accepted after abandoning the pop life for R&B. Way back in the early 90's, it was Jonathan 'Jon B' Buck---a songwriter, producer and musician born of musical parents who grew up steeped in the rich legacy of soul---who caught all the derision and doubt for his choice to perform with the brothers. While his previous successes couldn't insulate him from imploding labels in the late 90's, Jon B refocused, regrouped and decided to maintain his hustle independently, and Helpless Romantic, his fifth studio CD, is his first effort to reconnect with old fans and re-establish his hard-won legacy.

Helpless Romantic is more single-minded in its approach than previous efforts, thanks to its limited use of cameos and outside producers/songwriters. Yet he doesn't totally abandon his hip-hop leanings, as displayed in his first single an opening track, "Ooh So Sexy," with Houston rapper Paul Wall. Nor does he shy away from uniquely incorporating another artist's influence into his own tapestry ("Everybody Here Wants You," a Jeff Buckley remake, is the only track of the fourteen that Jon B didn't write/co-write). Fans will enjoy the sensual "Drops of Rain," the hypnotic mid-tempo club banger "Won't You Say Yeah " and the sinuous, seductive "On and On," where he paints himself as a readily-equipped-and-available loverman: "Baby, I take walk-ins."  He also can't miss with the title track, where he describes his recent marriage not as a ball-and-chain, but as an oceanic state that he's all-too willing to submerge himself in. Another lovey-dovey track, "The Ride of Our Lives," features Jonzii (another competent artist on his label), breathlessly describes the transformation that his daughter has brought to the union and to his life.  

If there are any faults on Helpless...., it's how the tracks meld too easily into one another, sometimes like mixed-up, melted neopolitan ice cream, where one mood is nearly indistinguishable from the next. The passion is undeniable on "The Ride...," for example, but also muted by the weak composition on which it is built. "Need You Bad," an attempt to modernize his sound a la Ne-Yo or the Dream, is too masked in sterile synthesizer edges and ends up sounding gimmicky. In the end though, original fans of Jon B---as well as others who are late to the train and want to know what the fuss is all about---will find an assortment of enjoyable songs here, so it's still a collection that's worth the listen.

By Melody Charles

 
Song of the Month - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Featured Album - Nichelle Colvin - Welcome to Gary
Featured Album - Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods

Leave a comment!