Tje Austin - Dreamin’ Big (2013)

Tje Austin
Tje Austin Dreaminâ?? Big.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Think back to season two on NBC’s The Voice and try to picture the tall handsome guy with the ?uestlove fro and the gleaming smile waltzing through Bruno Mars’s pop candy lullaby “Just the Way You Are.” The occasion was a milestone for the Honolulu native and Austin, Texas transplant, Tje Austin (pronounced “tye”). Not because it allowed him to pay respect to his hometown hero, but because his audition completely wowed the all-star panel. “I’m mad I didn’t pick you,” Christina Aguilera finally uttered while weeping over her unfortunate circumstance of not turning her spaceship-styled chair. Possibly afraid to take a chance with the judges who super-rule in pop royalty, Austin picked the eclectic Cee Lo Green to lead him up the ranks of the TV talent competition. Unfortunately as the show’s competition grew tougher, Austin’s chances at winning were blocked.

Think back to season two on NBC’s The Voice and try to picture the tall handsome guy with the ?uestlove fro and the gleaming smile waltzing through Bruno Mars’s pop candy lullaby “Just the Way You Are.” The occasion was a milestone for the Honolulu native and Austin, Texas transplant, Tje Austin (pronounced “tye”). Not because it allowed him to pay respect to his hometown hero, but because his audition completely wowed the all-star panel. “I’m mad I didn’t pick you,” Christina Aguilera finally uttered while weeping over her unfortunate circumstance of not turning her spaceship-styled chair. Possibly afraid to take a chance with the judges who super-rule in pop royalty, Austin picked the eclectic Cee Lo Green to lead him up the ranks of the TV talent competition. Unfortunately as the show’s competition grew tougher, Austin’s chances at winning were blocked.

The brief time he had on television may have been all the inspiration Austin needed to produce his first collection of music since the show. This isn’t his first trip to the rodeo – 2010’s Xperience, 2008’s Love Me Knots and a bundle of digitally released singles decorate his iTunes, ready-to-download library. But, with a fresh carpool of rapid fans and hometown supporters anxiously awaiting new material, Austin is hoping to cash in on his TV time investment with Dreamin’ Big. An apropos album title – even if it isn’t his first showing.

For the most part, the music sounds good – a sweet mesh of dreamy contemporary R&B and middle-of-the-road pop – and Rudy Jones’s production echoes a type of readiness that allows him to maneuver from state to stage at SXSW showcases. Some of the melodies work, particularly on intimate acoustic ballads like “Save Me” and the bipolar love anthem “Right for You.” But, it doesn’t take long for the ears to catch on to Austin’s easy-listening formula. Detected quickly, Austin’s good voice sounds like a whipped topping placed on everything average about Top 40 and crossover R&B. The Eurozone beats on “Still in Love” scream out Justin Bieber pop, even though Austin’s vocals are of a higher substance. And, on “Not a Thug,” he oddly juxtaposes himself against George Michael pop just to prove he’s not gangsta. The song’s un-swaggered oddness even drips into the awkward lyrics: “Will you give me a try?/I know that you’re thinkin’ I’m not your type.” While songs like the Brian McKnight-ish title track and the laidback lounge soul of “Back 2 Me” all ache with the kind of love-hungry content that makes modern R&B so attractive, the poetry hardly allows him to make the “big” impression he needs to make.

What works considerably well in Austin’s favor is the album’s compelling package of grooves. It tends to nicely skewer “Hold On,” possibly the album’s sleeper, one pushed so far deep into the set that it unfortunately risks being easily missed. Yet, the cut is among those worthy of a front row seat, thanks to its Isley Brother slow-jam effects and Austin’s seductive young blood crooning. “Hold On” and other groove flows aside, too often Austin simply doesn’t take enough risks. Still, although Austin would rather play softball than baseball, Dreamin’ Big illuminates a lane that works well on his delicately urban, pop-chiseled vocals. Modestly Recommended

By J Matthew Cobb

 
Featured Album - Lasperanza - "Seeds"
Featured Album - Nichelle Colvin - Welcome to Gary
Advance Featured Album - Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods

Leave a comment!