Tamia - Passion Like Fire (2018)

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Tamia - Passion Like Fire

If it is your life's philosophy that real love feels like the 90s-era, then you already know about Tamia. As an unofficial member of that generation's 'One-Name Diva Squad' (Brandy, Monica, Toni, Chante' and Deborah), what she's got in common with her peers is also what's kept her in the mix the last two decades: the ability to sang. Her return from a six-year hiatus in recording, 2012's Beautiful Surprise, earned a pair of Grammy noms and a deal with Def Jam, the label from which she released 2015's superbly-nuanced Love Life. Her seventh CD and latest release, Passion Like Fire, doesn't have the same feel as Love, but still demonstrates the lyrical depth, vocal range and uniquely sweet, saucy that keeps her in demand and a part of the post-90's mix. 

Tamia - Passion Like Fire

If it is your life's philosophy that real love feels like the 90s-era, then you already know about Tamia. As an unofficial member of that generation's 'One-Name Diva Squad' (Brandy, Monica, Toni, Chante' and Deborah), what she's got in common with her peers is also what's kept her in the mix the last two decades: the ability to sang. Her return from a six-year hiatus in recording, 2012's Beautiful Surprise, earned a pair of Grammy noms and a deal with Def Jam, the label from which she released 2015's superbly-nuanced Love Life. Her seventh CD and latest release, Passion Like Fire, doesn't have the same feel as Love, but still demonstrates the lyrical depth, vocal range and uniquely sweet, saucy that keeps her in demand and a part of the post-90's mix. 

As usual, Tamia's vocals don't disappoint: whether she's pledging her loyalty and respect ("Today I Do," "If I Had to Choose"), scratching the surface in relationships ("Deeper," "Lost In You") or giving a glimpse of her inner sex siren, like the coquettish "It's Yours" ("You got my permission, green light's on/keep it goin' Baby, don't slow down"), Mrs. Hill demonstrates time and again that she remains a contender. Even when she catches ol' boy slippin' and has to keep on keepin' on without him, Tamia adds just enough flavor to keep it heated and tart ("Not For Long"): "It's okay for me to feel hurt, but not for long/ Sometimes I might forget my worth, but not for long." Perhaps more succinctly than any of her Squad members, Tamia's artistry and aplomb can bring life to nearly any song she conveys. 

With Saalam Remi, Shep Crawford and Lil' Ronnie back on the boards, there was no way Passion Like Fire could lose. But is there the same amount of soaring and stretching that she did as a performer with Love Life? Are there any impressive covers like "Black Butterfly," or outright perky playful cuts, like "Sandwich & a Soda"? Unfortunately no, and it's hard to determine if she and her team deliberately decided to played it safer. In other words, the differences are so noticeable that Passion Like Fire comes across as sort of a misnomer. The dominance of ballads and scattering of midtempos make it less of a buoyant listen overall, although still a worthy one. 

Like the rest of her singing squad, Tamia's had an eventful 20 years, and the reasons why fans still love love her are evident all throughout Passion.... some of them may just wish for less sugar and more spice. Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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