LeToya - Lady Love (2009)

LeToya
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It's never easy to pick up the pieces of your life after a break-up: there it is, your history as a unit out there to be analyzed by outsiders as you struggle, in the midst of your pain, to make sense of it all while anticipating an uncertain future. If this is painful for the average person, imagine how devastating it was for those in the spotlight, like former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett. After being booted from the original lineup of the Houston-based, hitmaking quartet, she and fellow outcast Latavia Roberson formed their own new group, Anjel, only to have it fall apart after their production company dissolved. Now, nearly a decade after the scandal, Ms. Roberson is putting the finishing touches on her debut CD and Ms. Luckett is back with her second CD, Lady Love, intent on proving that her million-selling self-titled debut wasn't a fluke and that she deserves to be respected in her own right as a genuine artist.

It's never easy to pick up the pieces of your life after a break-up: there it is, your history as a unit out there to be analyzed by outsiders as you struggle, in the midst of your pain, to make sense of it all while anticipating an uncertain future. If this is painful for the average person, imagine how devastating it was for those in the spotlight, like former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett. After being booted from the original lineup of the Houston-based, hitmaking quartet, she and fellow outcast Latavia Roberson formed their own new group, Anjel, only to have it fall apart after their production company dissolved. Now, nearly a decade after the scandal, Ms. Roberson is putting the finishing touches on her debut CD and Ms. Luckett is back with her second CD, Lady Love, intent on proving that her million-selling self-titled debut wasn't a fluke and that she deserves to be respected in her own right as a genuine artist.

In comparison to LeToya, Lady Love has a sultrier feel, more gloss than grit this time around thanks to collaborating with the likes of Ne-Yo, Tank, Ryan Leslie, Elvis Williams and Ron Feemster. On her debut, there was an abundance of declarative cuts aimed at reinforcing her H-Town rep and working out any residual post-DC aggression and angst, but Lady Love is about expressing herself as a, well, independent woman.  With vocals just as expressive (if not as melodramatic) as Beyonce's, Ms. Luckett conveys sass and swagger on tracks like "Regret," which is laced by a cameo from Ludacris as she tells an ex that he's been demoted to the D-List: "First class flights, dipped in ice, I had your neck and your wrists oh so bright. Poppin' tags, is a thing of the past: you lost everything you had chasin' those scallywags." "She Ain't Got" is an aggressive, adrenaline-pumped "hands-off-my-man" cut warning Boyfriend to not to fall for the "grass is greener" trap: "I done let you out to play, but you ain't playin' there, you done let some lil' stray bring fleas around here."  LeToya isn't always the "stand-by-your-man" type though, tossing out the games and drama with "Not Anymore"  and telling a new man who's checking for her that, thanks to her ex, she doesn't even want to go there on the hypnotic, synth-laden "Lazy":  "I'm done---see, I don't feel like getting to know you, what you like to eat, or what you like to do, see that's too much information to deal with, I played the love game with another, so I quit."

What would've overwhelmed a lesser artist, but makes Lady Love such an engaging listen (if occasionally, an uneven one), is the variety of producers: the songs, five of which she co-wrote, are usually strong, but at times she comes across as a guest vocalist on her own project(!). "Love Rollercoaster," for example, would've created more impact if the rapper Mims didn't get twice the mic time than she does, while "After Party" is a bit too glib and frothy to sell its "I'm too through with you" message.  "Matter," co-written by Marsha Ambrosius, is well-done, but pairing her with Estelle on "Take Away Love" seems forced instead of fresh, like a last minute addition to counteract the dominance of testosterone behind the boards. Still, aside from those momentary missteps, Lady Love is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor and demonstrates that Ms. Luckett, in spite of the past, is fulfilling a bright destiny all her own.

By Melody Charles

 
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