Kem - Promise to Love

Kem
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Sensuality, spirituality and homespun wisdom about everything in-between, delivered atop elegant ballads and meticulous, mid-tempo grooves: Kem's signature style has become, in just under a decade, a recognizable and rewarding one that's endeared him to fans of 'grown and sexy' R&B. On stage and in the studio, the Detroit-based performer has proven himself to be an authentic talent, creating a 2012 Christmas CD with year-around appeal and a hit 2013 duet, "My Favorite Thing," with "Mr. Biggs" himself, Ron Isley, that also widened his reach.

So Promise To Love, Kem's fifth studio project, logically follows that well-established formula, minus a few tweaks tossed in to add flavoring and finesse. 

Sensuality, spirituality and homespun wisdom about everything in-between, delivered atop elegant ballads and meticulous, mid-tempo grooves: Kem's signature style has become, in just under a decade, a recognizable and rewarding one that's endeared him to fans of 'grown and sexy' R&B. On stage and in the studio, the Detroit-based performer has proven himself to be an authentic talent, creating a 2012 Christmas CD with year-around appeal and a hit 2013 duet, "My Favorite Thing," with "Mr. Biggs" himself, Ron Isley, that also widened his reach.

So Promise To Love, Kem's fifth studio project, logically follows that well-established formula, minus a few tweaks tossed in to add flavoring and finesse. 

With a few exceptions, the songs on Promise... focus on recognizing the real: claiming it, settling into it or even moving apart if it keeps the soul intact. Kem's approach to the ladies, a low-key persona that posits him as the antithesis of too-common sex-starved, drama-fueled crooners, soothes and satisfies. "Beautiful World" eases into a finger-snapping frankness about taking life's blessings amongst the BS as is; "Moments" is its energetic jazzier counterpart, agilely sung in a whispery falsetto and bouncily rendered about newfound love making everyday routines all the sweeter. But if the opposite is true and the love is no longer a good fit, Kem isn't about wearing rose-colored glasses and avoiding the obvious: "Love will always find its way, to the truth/And the truth is, I've got the hardest time being loved by you ("Do What You Gotta Do.")."

Since Kem, like most true artists, can't help but draw from his wellspring of life experiences, a few of the tracks are challenging ("Say Something Real"), remorseful ("Nobody") and even full-on vulnerable ("Pray For Me" and the L'Renee contribution, "Don't Say Goodbye"), but the rest embrace celebrating his lady and committing to the work to create Happily Ever After. "Saving My Love For You" is a fairy-tale-rivaling romantic groove ("Long before land and sea, long before life has come to be/Even all the angels knew, I'd be saving my love for you"), the title track practically sets a man's wedding vows for his bride to music, and "Downtown," featuring Snoop Dogg---yes, Snoop Dogg--- offers the sly inner id of Kem's motivations in taking his princess in the carriage and showing off their love for all to see (or seethe over).  

Depending on how long you've been a Kem fan, his trademark presentations of soulful, languidly-executed love anthems and hip-shaking, head-swaying mid-tempos can come across one or two ways: seasoned or stifling. The energy that buoyed ....Album III and produced his first-ever Grammy nomination ("Why Would you Stay") isn't as consistently applied here, which may signal 'a need for speed' to ward off possible redundancies in future projects. Those quibbles aside, however, Kem's loyal listeners and the nation's urban AC programmers won't feel cheated in the least because this performer's always done what he's set out to in music, and few things are sexier than a man who keeps his Promise.  Recommended.

By Melody Charles

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