Back 2 Life (released May 12, 2017)
Destiny’s Child. Grammy Awards. Music that defined a generation.
Drama. That infamous “Say My Name” video. Breakups.
And then, in 2006, the redemption song.
So there you go, LeToya Luckett’s past is out of the way. It’s about time that when we mention LeToya’s name we look forward, not backward. I’m sure she’d appreciate that.
And by the sound of things, Back 2 Life, her third solo album, is priming LeToya for the future.
Chances are pretty good by now that you’ve heard the title track (named “B2L” on the Spotify version of the album for some reason). It made a solid impression on the charts in early 2017, probably due to its blend of classic and current sounds. Though the production is slightly trap-inspired, LeToya doesn’t rest on the production alone – her vocals carry the track, along with the Soul II Soul-insipred sample.
Pay attention, R&B artists – if you’re determined to embrace “Trap&B,” this is the way you do it.
Though the album wholeheartedly embraces radio-friendly production – “Used to” has that familiar tropical theme and “Middle” is straight out of Rihanna’s playbook – it’s when LeToya embraces a more authentic R&B sound that she really flourishes.
Back 2 Life is bookended with really strong selections. Album opener “I’m Ready” is the perfect midtempo showcase for LeToya’s skillset. The subtle drum march and the gentle finger snaps are the perfect accompaniment for her pitch. Also, the weepy closer “Disconnected” is a throwback to Destiny Child’s early soulful roots – the ballad is simultaneously sweet and sorrowful at the same time.
But “Grey” might be the album’s brightest gem. Over breezy production, LeToya urges her man for commitment: “We don’t have to fall in love if that ain’t what you want/but it’s not OK for us to play in the grey.” Ludacris, as always, delivers a stellar guest verse that’s just icing on the cake.
Back 2 Life is a great showcase of LeToya’s musical diversity but sometimes that comes at the price of consistency. The album too often switches gears, bouncing from retro (the disco-themed “Show Me”) to big band (“World’s Apart”) and back to sparse modern production (the sexed-up “Weekend”). While all of those tracks are notable individually, collectively they don’t make for a seamless listen and it hurts the overall package.
LeToya’s “jack of all R&B trades” approach to Back 2 Life might not make it the most consistent listen but it proves that she’s still a player. And best of all, it shows that her future is more worthy of discussion than her past.
Best tracks: “Grey,” “B2L,” “Disconnected”
3.5 stars out of 5