Donell Jones - Forever (2013)

Donell Jones
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It’s hard to believe that Donell Jones is 40. In 1999, the then 26-year old Chicago native penned one of those songs that goes on to become a summer anthem and continues to be remembered fondly to this day by the people in Jones’ age group cohort.  That song, “U Know What’s Up,” was Jones’ first big hit and deservedly so. The track from the album Where I Wanna Be sports a bass line that invites listeners to roll the windows down and turn the volume up. The tune melded Jones’ buttery voice that had the right mix of exuberance and mischief to tell the story of youth at the height of its powers. Jones had everything a young man could want – freedom, cool homies (or N-words if you copped the album version), a nice whip and an ample amount of money. What was Jones going to do with all of those assets? You know what’s up.

It’s hard to believe that Donell Jones is 40. In 1999, the then 26-year old Chicago native penned one of those songs that goes on to become a summer anthem and continues to be remembered fondly to this day by the people in Jones’ age group cohort.  That song, “U Know What’s Up,” was Jones’ first big hit and deservedly so. The track from the album Where I Wanna Be sports a bass line that invites listeners to roll the windows down and turn the volume up. The tune melded Jones’ buttery voice that had the right mix of exuberance and mischief to tell the story of youth at the height of its powers. Jones had everything a young man could want – freedom, cool homies (or N-words if you copped the album version), a nice whip and an ample amount of money. What was Jones going to do with all of those assets? You know what’s up.

Jones, to paraphrase Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, is a man. He’s 40, and his eighth studio album, Forever, finds the singer struggling to put away childish things. Jones’ struggle to resist temptation and stay true to his “22” (more on that later) is a recurring theme in contemporary R&B. Jones’ fellow Chicagoan R. Kelly is the confirmed master of this craft.  Part of Kelly’s appeal is that his songs play like existential battles between the better and worse angels of his nature.

After listening to Forever, I get the feeling that Jones really, really likes hanging out. The album’s two best song, “You Know,” sports that banging strip club beat and tells the story of a guy fighting a losing battle to stay faithful to his boo. However, he just can’t resist the temptation of blowing his cash on those ladies he sees in the club.  “Ride This” is a cut boasting a twerk-ready beat with Jones lending his velvety vocals to every man’s fantasy about a woman who likes to take control in the bedroom.

Jones does do some solid ballad work on Forever.  He uses the title track to pay homage to his girl – or his 22. Jones is not comparing his lady to tires. Rather, the number refers his lady’s “life path number.” The imagery and metaphors Jones employs on the track “Closer I Get To You” give the tune the urgency and passion not found on the album’s other ballads. “Like the wind of a hurricane/I want to blow you away/I’m that storm/I gotta get near to you.”

Forever is an album that features sensitivity and swagger. The latter still comes more naturally to Jones, even at age 40, and Forever’s club anthems will be the record’s most memorable tunes. That pretty much captures the zeitgeist of the times. Moderately Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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