Charlene (to be released Feb. 26, 2016)
Eleven years is an awfully long time.
But in the world of music, standard time might as well be measured in dog years. In that case, eleven years is an eternity.
In her absence, Charlene “Tweet” Keys has watched the R&B landscape evolve but she’s ready to turn back the clock to a more soulful time.
She told me so herself.
— Tweet (@MS_HUMMINGBIRD) January 6, 2016
Tweet’s third album, Charlene, her first official LP since 2005’s It’s Me Again, fulfills that promise — gentle, stirring soul from R&B’s Southern hummingbird.
If Tweet’s fanbase feared that she’d alter her sound to cater to a new generation of fans, “Magic” proves that this is the same Tweet you know and love. It’s Tweet’s trademark sound, weepy production lifted by airy vocals. She’s a maestro when it comes to these midtempo jams.
“Priceless” also dwells in that atmosphere, where simplicity is key. “All it takes is a kiss and I’m on Cloud 9,” Tweet sings, adding that this kind of love is “so simple and so true.” It’s also true of the song — her soft lyrics aren’t overwhelmed by overbearing production. The addictive guitar licks do the heavy lifting. It’s the same method of success for the aptly-titled “Addicted.” So many artists love to use buzzwords like “mood” and “atmosphere” as an excuse to mumble sparse lyrics over dreary beats. Nah, playa, this is real mood music — harmonies that maintain a steady pace and ride a consistent groove.
But let’s not forget that Tweet is always willing to bring the energy. For the third album in a row, she teams with Missy Elliott to create “Somebody Else Will,” which pulsates with a slight hip-hop edge. “Neva Shoulda Left Ya” aches with regret but the tempo never drags. The fluctuating pace really helps keep the album from slowing to a crawl.
Tweet’s music has always been carried by good writing, like the defiance of “Won’t Hurt Me” and the introspection of “I Didn’t Know” (“It wasn’t love, I agree, maybe comfort was safe with me … but I can’t supply that no more”). But that writing shines best on the beautiful “I Was Created For This,” a public declaration of her God-given gifts. “He gave me a song for me to tell me the story,” she says.
Thankfully, she’s not keeping that story to herself.
It may have taken a decade for Charlene to arrive but it’s definitely worth the wait. In many ways, it’s more cohesive than 2005’s It Me Again yet stays true to Tweet’s soulful pedigree.
You shouldn’t be surprised, though. Tweet told us herself that she was bringing soul back. She’s a woman of her word.
Best tracks: “Magic,” “Priceless,” “Somebody Else Will”
4 stars out of 5