Brian McKnight - Gemini

Brian McKnight
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Okay, I'll admit off the bat that I'm not in Brian McKnight's key demographic group. His albums are clearly not aimed at 40-something year old men. However, for years I've wanted to like his music. Maybe it's because I've respected the pioneering music of Take 6 for so long (his brother Claude is a member and Brian has worked with them often), or maybe because McKnight has teased so long with a great single here and there, at times appearing to be a NextGen Jeffrey Osborne or Peabo Bryson. However, he's demonstrated album after album that his sensibilities are very different than those predecessors and the results have tended to be spotty both musically and (especially) lyrically. Like R. Kelly -though not as notorious - McKnight has spent his career distractingly caught between the sacred and the profane, with his songs regularly leaping from the pulpit into one night stands and back again.

Okay, I'll admit off the bat that I'm not in Brian McKnight's key demographic group. His albums are clearly not aimed at 40-something year old men. However, for years I've wanted to like his music. Maybe it's because I've respected the pioneering music of Take 6 for so long (his brother Claude is a member and Brian has worked with them often), or maybe because McKnight has teased so long with a great single here and there, at times appearing to be a NextGen Jeffrey Osborne or Peabo Bryson. However, he's demonstrated album after album that his sensibilities are very different than those predecessors and the results have tended to be spotty both musically and (especially) lyrically. Like R. Kelly -though not as notorious - McKnight has spent his career distractingly caught between the sacred and the profane, with his songs regularly leaping from the pulpit into one night stands and back again.

Gemini is a fairly typical McKnight album that his many (primarily female) fans will adore. As with his other CDs, there are a handful of excellent, well performed numbers, especially the a cappella intro "Stay With Him," the nice ballad "Everytime You Go Away," a Prince-meets-the-Chi-Lites-style mid-tempo, "Everything I Do," and the jazz-infused "Your Song." There are also a few throwaways, here being a couple of out-of-place rap pieces, "She" and "Watcha Gonna Do," that detract from the album's overall mood.

Gemini is almost done in, however, by McKnight's lyrical schizophrenia, again mixing spirituality with an overplay of McKnight's loverman persona. He puts the listener in the rather disconcerting position of flipping between a heartfelt song about the Passion of Christ ("Me & You") and a cut about backstage sex with a groupie (the album's lead single "What We Do Here") or backseat sex with others (just about everything else on the album). And while "What We Do Here" (which borrows from the tacky Las Vegas travel motto "What You Do Here Stays Here") attempts to sound gentlemanly in McKnight's promise not to kiss and tell, it comes off as a creepy come-on by a self-indulgent artist to a star-struck fan ("You have any questions girl, go on and ask right now while your reputation's still intact...what's good is if you meet me right after the show"). Fact is, though the word "love" is interspersed into many of the songs on Gemini, it is outnumbered by a series of "I wants" and "I needs" that make the disc far more sensual than romantic.

In the end, Gemini generally delivers musically and has a number of interesting moments that will certainly please McKnight's substantial fan base. However, the lyrical mixed messages and groupie pandering leave me cold and prevent the album from reaching the level warranted by its solid musical foundation.

by Chris Rizik

 
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