Ridin' Solo (Deluxe Edition) (released June 22, 2010)
Finally, it's here - the most requested review in the history of Georgia Mae.
Well, not really. I just received a ton of e-mails and texts from friends and readers who were shocked that I haven't blabbered on endlessly about Keith's 10th studio album. You know it has been a busy week if I had to delay a chance to talk about Keith.
Longtime Georgia Mae readers know that I've endured a lifetime of Keith jokes - his so-called whining and his alleged "long neck" are among the barbs. But even you haters have to admit that after 12 million albums, sold-out live performances, a reality show on Centric that debuts next week, and a career that has spanned two decades, he has to be doing something right.
I think the key to Keith's longevity is how he manages to keep his music fresh and current without totally selling out longtime fans. Yes - he has longtime fans other than me. They might not be male or under 50, but still. Anyway, Ridin' Solo is living proof of Keith's commitment to his fan base. Nah, you won't find production by the guy who does all those melancholy Drake songs, or raps from Nicki Minaj (thankfully) but Keith definitely keeps his ear to the streets.
The album opens up with "Famous," featuring Keith on the dreaded auto-tune. Normally I'd run screaming into the night, but Keith has been using auto-tune for 20 years so he gets a pass. Plus, he doesn't sound uncomfortable over the booming bassline - especially since it brings back memories of the classic "How Deep Is Your Love." "Test Drive" has actually received a bit of radio play in Birmingham, and yeah, while the expiration date on "car=sex" metaphor was about 10 years ago, you won't mind thanks to Joe's show-stealing performance. His falsetto flawless.
Of course, Keith doesn't stray far from his roots. Some might say the title track is another example of "begging," but to me it sounds more like a passionate plea in Keith's search for a soulmate. And "Do Wrong Tonight" is exactly what made the man famous - a slow burner where Keith weighs the consequences of stepping out on his girl.
Sometimes, though, the album is a little too safe - "It's All About You" and "I'm the One You Want" are paint-by-the-numbers generic slow jams. And other times, Keith uncharacteristically stumbles out of his comfort zone - "Hood Sex" would be OK if not for some irritatingly ghetto lyrics. Keith is too old to be talking about a girl who has a "fatty." And the island flavor of "Tropical" is spoiled by the annoying Wyclef Jean impersonator spitting gibberish near the end of the song. The dude should be ashamed.
The album's bonus tracks - "Dancin' With My Girl" and especially "Reverse" - are pretty good. But I was pretty disappointed that "Goin At It," which has been floating around the 'Net for months, was left off the album. It's better than most of the album cuts.
I think newer fans would be surprised at how accessible Ridin' Solo is. No, Keith isn't singing over so-called futuristic tracks from Swizz Beatz, yet he certainly doesn't sound like he's stuck in 1991. While not as stellar as Keith's '08 studio comeback Just Me, Ridin' Solo will fill the void of left by current R&B artists who are more concerned with creating crappy pop songs these days.
So stop hating and check it out. And besides, look at that album cover - who can hate on a man with a suit that awesome?
Best tracks: "Test Drive," "Do Wrong Tonight," "Reverse"
3.5 stars out of 5