KeKe Wyatt - Rated Love (2016)

KeKe Wyatt
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If there were a tier system for vocals and artistry, somewhere between 'maestro' and 'mechanical' would be 'a sangin' fool'----that guy or that lady who defines 'hard in the paint' when it comes to the vocals and could make the dry instructions in an owner’s manual sound like a movie score. And to take it further, if there were a list of 'sangin' fools,' it would be incomplete without mentioning KeKe Wyatt.

If there were a tier system for vocals and artistry, somewhere between 'maestro' and 'mechanical' would be 'a sangin' fool'----that guy or that lady who defines 'hard in the paint' when it comes to the vocals and could make the dry instructions in an owner’s manual sound like a movie score. And to take it further, if there were a list of 'sangin' fools,' it would be incomplete without mentioning KeKe Wyatt. We heard and saluted her skills on her 2001 debut, Soul Sista, and despite living through ups and downs that a Tyler Perry play couldn't reproduce (shelved projects due to collapsing record labels, a failed marriage due to domestic violence and the loss of a child), KeKe's used her zany personality (see her 2011-2014 stint on TV One's R&B Divas), renewed domestic bliss and enviably expressive range to stay in the mix and keep the music playing, this time in the form of her fifth studio set, Rated Love

If you're older than 10 and younger than 100, let's face it----there likely aren't any new scenarios to offer up when it comes to relationships, but what can add value is how those familiar realities are being expressed; so that's where KeKe Wyatt gets the job done. Co-writing the bulk of Rated allows the full spectrum of her gifts to shine, whether she's getting the groove on ("Sexy Song"), detailing how sprung she is (the tangy groove "On Repeat") or explaining precisely why ol' boy's clothes are spilling out of trash bags out on the porch (the soaring lump-in-the-throat ballads "24 Hours" and "No Peace"). Don't let the sight of sixteen tracks intimidate you: three of them are quick interludes that foreshadow where the musical mood is heading and also reveal kernels of truth about why we participate in our unions to begin with. Consider them scenes from the universal soap opera that KeKe's learned from, lived through and mastered like a grizzled veteran: "Love don't make no sense, when you're in there....we fight and we cry and we cry/then we try and we try and we try, just wanna stay together." 

Because of KeKe's emeritus level of straight-up-sangin,' there are more pluses here than minuses: new couples, folks nursing a broken heart or those who've marked off another year of togetherness can relate to the fiery "If It Ain't You," the resiliency in "Still Have Love" and the husky resonance of "I Know,"-- she's also so mesmerizing that the lack of up tempo tracks or guest appearances is barely noticed (not like she needs any). But what cannot be escaped is the overuse of auto-tuning: it's not only distracting, the robotic edges create distance from the emotions that Wyatt is extracting from each note...um, really?!? WHY?!?

Otherwise, with its adept pacing, experimentation in style approaches and enthusiastic delivery, Rated Love showcases why KeKe Wyatt will continue rise and to personify that "80/20 rule" that so often applied to relationships: admitted flaws and irritants don't justify going without when you truly have a good thing. Highly Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

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