InDRUpendence Day (released July 27, 2010)
I've often talked here about how my 21-year-old brother-in-law and I clash on music. I like Janelle Monae's eclectic style, he likes Soulja Boy's "Pretty Boy Swag." Gag.
But one group we do agree on is Dru Hill. The quartet has captivated listeners since 1996, stood tall as one of the last great groups of the modern R&B era (are there any R&B groups left these days?) and their fanbase remains rabid today. I mean, if a 21-year-old knows the lyrics to EVERY song they've put out, they definitely have made their mark.
But as you all know, the 90s were a long time ago. Member Woody left after the group's second album dropped and Sisqo went on the be one of the biggest stars of the new millenium (well, for a couple of months, anyway). The group reunited and added new member Scola and released a decent, but overlooked, album a few years later. Woody and Scola left again.
A couple of years ago, Woody returned to the group for approximately 10 minutes before running off again, leaving the group members squabbling on national radio. Check out the carnage here.
Enter my boy Keith Sweat to save the day! Keith took the three remaining members, along with newbie Tao, under his wing to help them create one last masterpiece.
Keith Sweat: Humanitarian.
And although Keith's intentions were good, sadly, Dru's fourth studio album, InDRUpendence Day, doesn't recapture the magic of their classic 1996 debut.
Let me alleiviate any doubt - the group proves they can still bring it on the ballads. The anguished "Away" is how Dru Hill became famous - meshing their melodies into one package. Yeah, Sisqo sounds a bit strained ("probably smoked his voice up," according to my bro-in-law) but the harmonizing lends support. Tao stands tall among his comrades on the equally impressive "Back to the Future." Just check out those high notes as Dru reminsices about the good times. Makes me reminisce too.
But the rest of the album falls short. With the exception of "Below Zero," most of the uptempo tracks like "Shut It Down," "Whatcha Do" and "She Wants Me" are extremely unimaginative and generic.
The production of "Remain Silent" has Keith's fingerprints all over it but the corny "you have the right to remain silent in the court of luvvvv" lyrics are too much to stomach. "State of Emergency" is another track that wastes solid production on bizarre lyrics. The dudes sing about "kidnapping a girl's heart" but it sounds more like they're stalking her.
"Can't Stop" is a perfect ode to the group's vices because they sound high as a Georgia Pine on that track (I got that from my mother-in-law). And stay far, FAR away from "Rule the World," the ear-splitting remake of the 80s Tears for Fears song. Nokio tries to channel Mos Def on the track, but fails as he kicks lame conscious raps, then spends the last minute of the song explaining those raps to the listener!
Sadly, most of InDRUpendence Day sounds extremely unfocused. This isn't the comeback my bro-in-law and I were waiting for, but a few flashes of brilliance give me hope for a more polished follow-up.
Whip 'em into shape, Keith.
Best tracks: "Away," "Back to the Future," "Below Zero"
3 stars out of 5