Lee - 16 Reasons You Should Buy This Album (2014)

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We all claim to hate those ubiquitous best of lists, but we really don’t, and that’s why anybody who wants to look like an expert continues to make them.  Actually, what we love to do is argue over lists, and that makes them the ultimate conversation piece. A bunch of NBA executives say Kobe Bryant is the 40th best player in the NBA (at best), and he goes off and Mike and Mike issue a top 10 trending topic on Twitter. Some music guru includes Robin Thicke on a list of top R&B singers while excluding (insert the name of your favored soul man here) and Twitter tears him (or her) a new one.

We all claim to hate those ubiquitous best of lists, but we really don’t, and that’s why anybody who wants to look like an expert continues to make them.  Actually, what we love to do is argue over lists, and that makes them the ultimate conversation piece. A bunch of NBA executives say Kobe Bryant is the 40th best player in the NBA (at best), and he goes off and Mike and Mike issue a top 10 trending topic on Twitter. Some music guru includes Robin Thicke on a list of top R&B singers while excluding (insert the name of your favored soul man here) and Twitter tears him (or her) a new one.

Humanity will have a lot to talk about between now and the New Year as magazines and TV shows employ a battalion of authorities to churn out their year-end best of lists with assembly line efficiency. The Internet has unlimited space and need to fill that space with the most arcane and inane things, and BuzzFeed sits at atop the list of list makers due to the site’s quirky subject matter and numbering system (23 Songs Every Former Emo Kid Will Never Forget).

So it is probably with a nod to BuzzFeed that The Square Egg front man Lee Williams titled his third solo album 16 Reasons You Should Buy This Album. BuzzFeed’s list numbering system is probably a closely held secret, but Lee’s title refers to the number of tracks on his album. That album’s title marks Lee as an artist who is self-aware enough to understand the pricelessness of a well-dropped pop culture reference and self-confident to know that he’s got a pretty good album on his hands.

16 Reasons is joyously funky and satirically insightful – often within the confines of the same song as is the case with “Some Girls,” which could be a funk/hip-hop version of “American Woman,” if the Guess Who did funk/hip-hop fusion back in 1970. In the Guess Who song, the American Woman was a metaphor for militarism, exceptionalism and materialism that seduced the nation into Vietnam. The girls in Lee’s tune are the people who seek to prove their support for the dispossessed by spouting slogans, but who want to change the subject when talk shifts to substantive issues such the prison industrial complex and economic inequality: “Some girls say I got a chip on my shoulder/Some girls tell me that Obama’s hot/But when I talk about black unemployment/Some girls don’t really wanna listen a lot/Some girls say they like the color of my skin/We’re living in a post racial society/But when I shop at American Apparel/Some girls always gotta keep an eye on me.”

Tracks like “American Tail” showcase Lee’s skill as a storyteller. The funky track begins with a minute plus introduction of Lee’s love of music, as well as the philosophy that informs his work before melding into a story about liaison between a family man with an undercover fetish for cocaine fueled sex fantasies and a call girl. Lee alternates between telling the story from the point of view of the man and the woman. “She tells herself that this money/She’s saving it for school/Five grand a night to play dress up/It’s really kind of cool/There’s no difference between whores and wives anyway/Except whores don’t deal with headaches/Besides they get more pay.”

“Crazy Love,” is an old fashioned funky rocker complete with kicking drums, delightful backing harmonies and blaring horns. The arrangement is so infectious that it makes the tune’s story about unrequited love sound appealing. “Something To Die For” finds Lee singing an anti-war anthem from the point of view of a soldier who is destined to die in a foreign land after being seduced by political slogans about why we fight rather than fully understanding what the fight is truly about.

Lee’s 16 Reasons You Should Buy This Album is a diverse project with songs touching on the political, the philosophical and the sensual with the common theme being the lyrical quality and the type of instrumental energy that listeners of indie soul know is commonplace, but that mainstream music fans mistakenly believe can only be heard on the Sunday oldies shows. In the end, Lee’s list of 16 reasons to purchase his latest project boils down to one – it’s all that and more. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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