Ryan Leslie - Transitions (2009)

Ryan Leslie
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Warm, effervescent, full of color and verve----for those who've experienced it before, nothing enraptures the senses like a summer fling. It may not always produce love, marriage or babies, but one obviously left a deep impression on musician and producer Ryan Leslie, whose sophomore CD, Transitions, is dedicated to a recent seasonal paramour (or so the credits would like you to believe, wink wink).

Warm, effervescent, full of color and verve----for those who've experienced it before, nothing enraptures the senses like a summer fling. It may not always produce love, marriage or babies, but one obviously left a deep impression on musician and producer Ryan Leslie, whose sophomore CD, Transitions, is dedicated to a recent seasonal paramour (or so the credits would like you to believe, wink wink).

As a writer-and-producer-turned singer (Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and Cheri Dennis, to name just a couple, have benefitted from his prowess), Mr. Leslie definitely knows how to compose great tracks, such as the buoyant "Is It Real Love," the coy, club-ready "Zodiac" and the aquatic groove of a starlit "Sunday Night." Unlike many of his peers, who soak their songs with too much sex, bling and slick ‘playa playa ' vibes, Leslie's music borrows from the 1980s era, full of sensuality splashed against head-nodding synthesizers and programmed beats. "Something That I Like," for example, infuses a bit of swag, but still details how this particular lady changed the game on him: "She's the only one that made me chase, got me singing love songs like Babyface. And I tried to one-night her but she made me wait.....she made me wait." The Taut groove of "You're Not My Girl" posits the singer as a man knowlingly entertaining a woman's flirtations by offering the discalimer that they can kick it, but to keep the expectations in check since he never declared them as an exclusive pair anyway; but he later redeems himself with the worshipful "Nothing," where he willingly gives up the mistresses and multiple girlfriends to concentrate on showering love on his one true boo .  "I Choose You" is treachly-sweet, but at least it's mercifully short and at the end, and while "Never Gonna Break Up" is a nice enough opener, it sounds more suited to a teen performer reciting a breathless how-to guide to copping that high-school crush ("I'ma get the finest clothes that I can find on retail,  then I try to pay attention to every single detail. I just want a girl who still looks good with no make up [???],  and when I find her, I promise, I'm never gonna break up.") Alrighty then!

What makes those glaring transgressions tolerable, however, is the undeniable fact that Mr. Leslie also displays how  innovative he's becoming as a musician, since he's able to release two CDs within the same calendar year that don't sound like lazily retread clones of one another.  He still needs to tighten the loose ends to keep himself from being catagorized as Neptunes Lite or color-by-numbers version of Ne-Yo.  But with skills like his, the reedy conversational tenor and lyrics that lean on the corny side won't keep Transitions from growin on you and or earning space in the CD changer or the iPod.

By Melody Charles

 

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