KeKe Wyatt - Unbelievable (2011)

KeKe Wyatt

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KeKe Wyatt has been in the news as much for her off-stage life as for her music in recent years. That’s rarely a good thing. Between problems with her former labels, reports that she made unflattering remarks about Beyonce and the disintegration of her marriage, it’s easy for fans to shift their attention to the TMZ stuff and away from the music. That’s unfortunate because the music’s always been pretty good. Wyatt has released three studio albums since 2001 – and two in the last 18 months. Her newest is Unbelievable, on Shanachie Records.

KeKe Wyatt has been in the news as much for her off-stage life as for her music in recent years. That’s rarely a good thing. Between problems with her former labels, reports that she made unflattering remarks about Beyonce and the disintegration of her marriage, it’s easy for fans to shift their attention to the TMZ stuff and away from the music. That’s unfortunate because the music’s always been pretty good. Wyatt has released three studio albums since 2001 – and two in the last 18 months. Her newest is Unbelievable, on Shanachie Records.

As an artist, Wyatt is known for a couple of things: one is her explosive vocal range, and the other is her penchant for covering great R&B ballads from the 1980s. She paired with Avant on remakes of Renee and Angela’s “My First Love.” She also covered Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew.” Wyatt returns to the 1980s here with versions of Mikki Howard’s “Love Under New Management” and “Saturday Love,” a song that originally paired Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal. I don’t think it will be much of a stretch to assume that “Love Under New Management” serves as Wyatt’s way of saying that she’s ready to turn the page. The tune fits Wyatt like a glove and not just because she can easily inhabit that vocal space where the jazzy Howard regularly resides.

“Love Under New Management” is one of those songs that you can sing only after you’ve lived a little life. The tune is part church testimony, with a little of Ole Blue Eyes telling Joe to “set ‘em up.” Combined with the song “Mirror,” “Love Under New Management” serves as the tale of Wyatt’s journey from fear and insecurity to self love as she prepares to ‘put herself back out there.’ “Mirror” finds the vocalist engaging in a conversation with the person in the glass. Wyatt’s looking in the mirror and not liking what she sees because try as she might, she just can’t separate from a bad relationship. Kelly Price and Tweet also provide vocals on this tune.

The songs on Unbelievable are a mix of the sunny optimism that often accompanies new love, and the realization that love has beginnings and endings. Tracks such as “Light Me Up,” and the bouncy title track show that Wyatt still believes in love. The lyrics on “Unbelievable” perfectly describe the ‘this can’t be happening’ feeling that comes when we meet somebody new. Wyatt also manages to work a little Eros in as well. The sensual ballad “Miss Your Plane” finds Wyatt in story telling mode as she coos about her attempt make her man miss his flight. She’s willing to use her body as an obstruction, and if that doesn’t work she calls on everything from the forces of nature to traffic jams to keep him grounded.

KeKe Wyatt has had an eventful decade, and hopefully the storms have passed. However, it’s possible to use the trials of life as inspiration for art. It appears that has Wyatt managed to do just that on Unbelievable.  Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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