You never forget your first.
I’ll let you in on a secret – my first celebrity crush was Deborah Cox back in 1995. Not only was she gorgeous, she was classy AND she could sing. Her self-titled debut in ’95 and her follow-up, One Wish, back in ’98, are two of my favorite albums.
But the thing about first loves is that they often don’t hold up. Have you ever run into someone you had a crush on in grade school years later? Oftentimes, the years aren’t kind. That girl who looked like Jada Pinkett might look like Jadakiss these days.
Although she had a great jazz album last year called Destination Moon (yeah, I do a little jazz – I’m not all Keith Sweat all the time) The Promise is Deborah’s first R&B album in five years and the music scene has changed greatly since then. It’s all about vocoders and repetitious hooks now. But with this album, Deborah tries to take things back.
Check out the names of these tracks: “All Hearts Aren’t Shaped The Same,” “Love Is Not Made In Words,” “You Know Where My Heart Is.” I haven’t seen titles that long since Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits album. True to their name, the songs are throwbacks – slow burning ballads that few attempt these days – but not necessarily in a good way. Deborah’s voice is still as good as ever, but it seems like she’s holding back so many of the tracks lack oomph. And some are downright sappy. The title track sounds like something a 6-year-old would sing at a talent show. Guess who wrote that song? John Legend. Hmmmm.
But there are a couple of gems. “Did You Ever Love Me” is a pretty strong ballad that actually holds your attention and the self-esteem anthem “Beautiful U R,” one of the few times she attempts an uptempo track, is fun and energetic but not gimmicky. Thankfully, she doesn’t sing “beautiful you arr-rah, arr-rah, arr-rah” at the end of every line.
The surprising standout is “Where Do We Go 2.” Yeah, it kinda sounds like Leona Lewis’ leftovers, but it’s the perfect blend of energy and powerful vocals, something Deborah seemed to struggle to find elsewhere.
Deborah may not be undefeated hitmaker of my youth, but she’s still pretty formidable. At just $8 on iTunes, even the most recession-ravaged consumer can consider a purchase.
Best tracks: “Where Do We Go 2,” “Did You Ever Love Me,” “Beautiful U R”
3.5 stars out of 5