Tamia - Love Life (2015)

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Prim, proper, glossy and sparkling in all the right places: that was the effect of Tamia's Grammy-nominated 2012 release, Beautiful Surprise. It was the vehicle that secured her in the crowded race as a worthwhile songstress, but for some the title was a misnomer. To be clear, yes the sound was lovely (as per usual in Mrs. Hill's case), but there were zero risks taken from an artistic standpoint and certainly nothing that listeners didn't already expect. In stark contrast though, her latest effort Love Life takes a sharp left turn in the other direction....which is, for all concerned, a better move. 

Prim, proper, glossy and sparkling in all the right places: that was the effect of Tamia's Grammy-nominated 2012 release, Beautiful Surprise. It was the vehicle that secured her in the crowded race as a worthwhile songstress, but for some the title was a misnomer. To be clear, yes the sound was lovely (as per usual in Mrs. Hill's case), but there were zero risks taken from an artistic standpoint and certainly nothing that listeners didn't already expect. In stark contrast though, her latest effort Love Life takes a sharp left turn in the other direction....which is, for all concerned, a better move. 

On her first major label CD in over a decade, to be blunt, Tamia steps lively and dishes out the sexy. Claude Kelly is joined this time around by Chuck Harmony, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Shep Crawford, Tarius "The-Dream" Nash and Polow da Don, next-level board controllers that empower Tamia to create her most swerved-out and urbanized material in years. With her impeccable range still in place, Tamia's saucier than usual lyrically and vocally (she contributed to half of the dozen tracks), which posits her as a mouthpiece for the over-40-and-fly set. The message? Grown women remain galvanizing, and keeping it steamy is still priority in our one-on-one relationships, please and thank you. 

In the pursuit of fun vs. fake and sensual vs. slorishness, Tamia's sound achieves an enviable balance. What resonates in the music is enjoyment of, or agony within, the borders of a marital or monogamous relationship: sure, it's sweet and steady most of the time, with inevitable moments of tediousness, but at the end of the day, the love is strong, the devotion runs deep and you still cut for that man. Generously applying her lower register this time around, Tamia reveals the depth of her 'love jones' in the intoxicating mid-tempo, "Love Falls All Over Me," pledges her devotion in the bouncy "Nowhere" and echoes the mentality of busy partners and parents who cherish the art of 'the quickie" and get it in where they can fit it in during the sensual love jam "Chaise Lounge": "So Baby drop your luggage on the floor, we won't make it upstairs/and you know the kids are down/so let's settle on this chaise lounge."

Is Tamia about eschewing her soaring trademark balladry for faster-paced fare? Hardly. In fact, she proves that she can still hurl songs into orbit with her superb send-up of the inspirational Deniece Williams classic, "Black Butterfly," pours unabashed adoration into "Special" and tracks the weathered yet wonderful progress of a Union in the anniversary-ready tribute, "Day One" ("Time flies as we watch the others, fall apart when they once were lovers who/everyone said would make it through."). But it's an exciting change of pace to hear Mrs. Hill abandon decorum for debauchery in one of the Claude Kelly selections, "Lipstick," surrender to a sexual spell in "Like You Do" and revel in her ability to turn him out horizontally in the bodacious joint, "Sandwich and a Soda": "You looking tired of those basic levels....you with the highest you don't have to setle."

With nearly two decades of recording under her belt and an established fan base, Tamia would likely still be in an enviable position no matter what she returned with. Hearing what she puts down on Love..., however, signals to all that Tamia is one of the few still insistent on dropping quality over cutesiness, and sure enough in her artistry to switch it up instead of stagnating. #TeamTamia fans who like it slow can still find enjoyable moments throughout, but the ones who want more verve and variety will gravitate more to this set than her last.....because, simply put, the grooves here demonstrate a spicier take on Life. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Featured Album - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

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