BJ the Chicago Kid
In My Mind (to be released February 19, 2016)
The R&B faithful have been patiently waiting for new blood to usher in a revival of soul and many fans are betting the house on BJ the Chicago Kid.
It’s easy to see why.
BJ is an old soul enveloped by youthful exuberance — possessing a voice that drips with Motown harmonies and a pen that can capture the imaginations of young listeners.
That duality drives his sophomore album, In My Mind — his first to be released, unsurprisingly, on Motown records.
Really, there’s no better home for his new-age soul symphonies.
First single “Church” gives us a peek inside BJ’s titular mind: “She say she wanna drink, do drugs and have sex tonight/But I got church in the mornin’, church in the mornin’.” It’s a constant struggle between two worlds, one that plays out not only in his lyrical content but the overall sound of the album.
BJ’s at his best when he embraces his soulful side. “Love Inside,” gently accented by horns, is simultaneously funky and sexy, and performed with the grace of a 20-year veteran crooner. “Woman’s World” convincingly flips James’ Brown’s classic “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” while still delivering the same result — a man and woman are incomplete each other. Solid ballads like “Shine” and “Falling On My Face” continue to turn back the clock.
“The New Cupid” might be the most daring commentary on the state of current R&B I’ve heard in years. “Cupid’s too busy in the club/rollin’ up at the bar,” BJ plainly states before adding, “The responsibility lies on me/Since Cupid ain’t around.” If your favorite R&B singer is too busy clubbing and (poorly) rapping to make love songs, BJ’s more than happy to carry the torch.
But that’s just one side of his sound. In My Mind often switches gears to more modern production and themes and, honestly, the results just aren’t as strong. The vicious soundscapes of “Man Down” are downright cinematic but BJ gets lots in the production. The finger snaps and synths of “The Resume” sort of sound like new Millennial Keith Sweat (which got me EXTRA hype, of course) but flat lyrics (“work that body like it’s a 9 to 5”) didn’t follow up on that potential.
In My Mind admirably tries to balance two eras of R&B but the results are often too uneven and distracting.
Regardless, BJ possesses an unquenchable fire for his craft — he all but says so himself on the prophetic “Jeremiah/World Needs More Love.” His faith in his music — and the art of the love song — is evident in every note here.
R&B fans, BJ is still a safe bet.
Best tracks: “Love Inside,” “The New Cupid,” “Church”
3.5 stars out of 5