Last Dragon (to be released February 10, 2015)
Before we begin, take a moment to journey with your boy back to the year 1999.
Gas was like 98 cents a gallon, the Sega Dreamcast was the height of video gaming, and, oh yeah, we were blessed with this:
It was like crack in a can.
Also in 1999, Sisqo was the biggest act in all of music and was poised to be the next Michael Jackson.
Yes, the guy from Dru Hill with weird hair was mentioned in the same breath as the King of Pop without a hint of hyperbole.
Coming off Dru Hill’s massive success, Sisqo’s “Thong Song” took over the world. He quickly followed up with Unleash the Dragon, a fantastic debut album that pushed both pop and R&B in new directions. Combine that with his undeniable charisma, sparkling showmanship and masterful vocals and you’ve got the ingredients for a megastar.
But things didn’t quite work out so well.
He quickly rushed his sophomore album, Return of Dragon into stores, and while the album had its moments, it landed with an unenthusiastic thud. A reunion with Dru Hill also sputtered, and the dragon faded back into obscurity.
Now, approximately 1,000 years later, Sisqo has returned to complete his dragon trilogy with the appropriately titled, Last Dragon. The music scene is completely different than the era he dominated at the turn of the millennium and he spends most of the album playing catch-up. That’s probably its biggest flaw.
The first single, “A-List” takes too much time chasing trends rather than creating them. Everything from the unnecessary autotune to the repetitive chorus to the contrived Waka Flocka Flame feature puts Sisqo completely out of his element. “Find Out” is just as bad, which just comes off like Sisqo singing Chris Brown karaoke. It’s one thing to try to speak to younger audiences, it’s another to aimlessly tag behind them — you look like the middle-aged guy chasing college girls at the club, smelling like Brut and hot wings.
When Sisqo stays in his lane the album is much better, “Lips” stands out solely because of it’s simplicity. There’s nothing here but Sisqo’s lustful lyrics and piano keys. Sisqo’s voice isn’t nearly as powerful as it was in his prime, but the stripped down approach still works wonders.
Sisqo also shines “Round and Round,” where the live instrumentation provides are more energetic and organic feel. Sisqo’s hyperactive charisma is a perfect fit amongst this throwback sound — I wish this was the direction he took for the entire album.
The rest of Last Dragon falls in the middle of the two extremes of “Lips”/”Round and Round” and “A-List”/”Find Out.” “David Blaine” will be coming to a strip club near you very soon, but it’s not very memorable besides the “we makin’ it rain” metaphors. “LGDT” and “Victim” lean closer to Sisqo’s R&B roots — the former borrowing a bit from Marvin Gaye while the latter features Dru Hill. Again, both are solid listens but fail to leave a lasting impression.
Sisqo’s post “Thong Song” career has always been a bit of a rocky road, and that continues with Last Dragon. Occasionally Sisqo picks up steam, other times he’s hindered by huge potholes. But for the most part, his road to redemption is pretty uneventful.
Last Dragon makes for a decent listen, but don’t expect to party like it’s 1999.
Best tracks: “Lips,” “Round and Round”
3 stars out of 5