The Scarlet Letter (to be released October 27, 2014)
Lil’ Mo is the last real R&B singer alive.
From her tell-all book she released earlier this month, to her outspoken stints on TV One’s R&B Divas, Mo is never one to bite her tongue — and her realness is what makes her so relatable. It’s what fuels all of her music, especially her debut and sophomore albums — two of the best, and most overlooked, albums in the genre in the early ’00s.
Mo’s life tends to be an open book, so The Scarlet Letter, Mo’s fifth studio album, should be another chapter in her never-ending battle for love. And that’s what it aims to be — the problem is the story isn’t told very well.
I know I’m in the minority, but I was a fan of Mo’s spring mixtape No Sh*t Sherlock. She found the most ratchet songs currently polluting radio and put her own personal spin on it. My Cousin Chris Brown calling women disloyal hoes? Yawn. But Mo hopping on the beat to call out her ex-husband for his disloyalty? That works.
That type of creativity is missing on The Scarlet Letter.
The album kicks off with a couple of ratchet rap tracks “Imight” and “Money Moet” — lyrically she’s leagues ahead of Izzy Azalea, so she’s got that going for her. And while the subject matter scrapes the bottom of the materialistic barrel (I’m rich! I’m on TV!) her infectious charisma keeps things somewhat interesting.
The rest of the album is trademark Mo. First single “Should’ve Never Let You Go” will be most familiar to longtime fans — it’s a breezy song but sadly gets really repetitive really quickly. The tinkling production on “Chest Pain” works well with Mo’s pleading vocals, sounding almost like an ice capade. But again, it doesn’t stick with you.
The problem with The Scarlet Letter is that it’s constructed to be an emotional record but it somehow lacks emotion. Songs like “Ride” are BEGGING for Mo’s trademark power to strengthen the track. Instead it just limps along. “Wait for You” has tons of potential but it doesn’t have the spark that listeners need to truly get invested in it. And I don’t know what’s going on with “Watching Me,” Mo’s falsetto sounds like it’s crumbling to pieces while she’s yelling at her stalkerish ex.
I’m not mad at The Scarlet Letter’s ratchetness. That’s Mo’s lane and few do it better. My beef is that so many tracks just sound flat and unfinished.
Mo had a great story to tell but this just sounded like a rough draft.
Best tracks: “Should’ve Never Let You Go,” “Wait For You”
3 star out of 5