Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses (to be released May 18. 2015)
Thanks to Jamie Foxx, we get one of life’s great mysteries answered:
How would a Michael Jackson “PYT” remake sound over a DJ Mustard beat?
The answer? Ehhhhhh.
Give him props for trying, I guess. It’s long been Jamie Foxx’s MO, an artist who loves to bridge the gap between R&B and pop’s roots and the 21st century sound.
Real music heads know that Foxx has been on the music scene long before he sang that wedding song to Fancy on The Jamie Foxx Show. Foxx’s first album, Peep This, landed in 1994, in the midst of R&B’s last great era. Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses, Foxx’s fifth album, occasionally gives glimpses of the good ol’ days, but it’s firmly rooted in the present.
And that means it suffers from the same ups (great production) and downs (horrible songwriting) that hinder most mainstream R&B on today’s radio stations.
Just look at the single “You Changed Me” — Boi-1da and Vinylz’s production is top-notch, but the cliched subject matter — girl, you make me wanna settled down, for realz dis time! — brings nothing new to the table.
Foxx’s vocals sound pretty good among the finger snaps and light bongos of “Text Message” but hearing a nearly 50-year-old man croon with sincerity about how “I’m a loveaholic” gets grating. “Another Dose” and “Vegas Confessions” are littered with the usual “guul, yo love is my drug” metaphors that aren’t done creatively.
Probably the most offensive is “Like A Drum,”with Shakespearean lines like this:
“I’m gonna beat it like a drum — bum bum bum bum.”
Whose preschool class wrote this song?
Now I know y’all are gonna yell at Grandpa Edd for being too critical and not enjoying what are supposed to be “fun” songs. Well, first playa, I’m a music critic, being critical is part of the deal. And second, the hackneyed lyrics are what hinder a good time. More often than not, it’s the production that steals the show on Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses. Pharrell brings intergalatic funk to “Tease” while current single “Baby’s In Love” burst with energy, even though Foxx’s vocals are oddly lethargic on the track.
My wife had the opportunity to interview Foxx circa 2008, the height of his music career. Foxx told her at the time that he didn’t prefer writing songs like his hit “Blame It,” he just knows they pay the bills. He said, if it were up to him, he’d just sit as piano and sing. And that’s just what he does on “Jumping out the Window” and “In Love By Now” — the latter is an especially tender ballad that shows just how great Jamie can be when he’s focused.
And despite all that undeserved hate y’all gave him for his gospel-tinged rendition of the national anthem at the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, believe me, the man can sing. This album just doesn’t allow him to show it off much.
Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses really needed more songs like the bonus track “Ain’t My Fault.” Instead of blaming it on the Goose, he’s blaming his lust on his woman’s little black dress. It’s one of the few times that the lyrics and performance actually match up to Mario Winans’ mesmerizing production. It’s the best of both of Foxx’s worlds — it sounds current, yet is delivered with the sensibilities of a music vet. He’s not dumbing down his sound here.
Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses has its brights spots, but at 18 tracks (on the deluxe edition), many listeners won’t have the patience to wade through the morass to get the real morsels. Foxx is still doing his best to reach younger listeners, but as “Ain’t My Fault” proves, he’s much better off as the experienced vocalist tweaking his sound than the old guy hanging with the young’ns in the club.
Best tracks: “Ain’t My Fault,” “In Love By Now,” “Text Message”
3 stars out of 5