Let Love Rule (released September 22, 2017)
You’ve gotta love Ledisi for her honesty.
In an interview with my boys over at YouKnowIGotSoul.com, Ledisi said something many fans and artists have been hesitant to admit for years – R&B is getting boring.
Ledisi’s the realest. And the truth (shout out to her last album).
That boredom is probably what birthed Ledisi’s hotly debated single “High,” which, on the surface, seemed like a drastic departure from the traditional soul sound that has been the bedrock of her career for almost two decades. And sure, while the heavy horns, sparse production and even the songwriting fall in line with current musical trends, the Ledisi you know and love is still here.
The vocals are pristine, the energy is high. We haven’t lost our girl to the trap gods just yet.
Purists might turn up their noses but I’m here for it. It’s just another facet of Ledisi’s artistry.
But don’t misunderstand me, “High” doesn’t signal a new career trajectory. Let Love Rule, Ledisi’s seventh studio release, might tweak her sound at times but Ledisi still delivers 45 minutes of power-packed R&B.
“Shot Down” makes an immediate statement, speaking on the various atrocities suffered in African-American communities. “Are we born to die? Is the price too high? All because the color of skin…” she ponders, before adding “black lives only matter on certain days.” Ledisi’s gospel-drenched vocal give these matters needed gravity. The LP is sprinkled with affirmation interludes from Iyanla Vanzant and Soledad O’Brien to accent the album’s theme of love conquering contempt.
Though things start heavy, the mood quickly settles into familiar territory. “Add to Me” allows Ledisi to unleash her trademark sass – “So what you gonna do/Now you got it, now it’s all on you.” “Here” is vintage Ledisi, featuring those pleading yet powerful vocals that resonate on her greatest songs. You can feel the soul seeping through every note.
The album also features a pair of duets, “Us 4ever” and “Give You More,” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid and John Legend, respectfully. Ledisi has solid chemistry with both but the latter song is a bit more memorable thanks to the more daring production.
And that points to the biggest shortcoming of Let Love Rule – outside of the aforementioned “High” and “Hello,” Ledisi often plays things a little too safely. “Hello” isn’t exactly in Ledisi’s comfort zone but that’s what makes it memorable – those drum patters lean ever so slightly close to trap without spilling lean all over the place. We already know what Ledisi is capable of – she knocks the power ballad “All the Way” out of the park without batting an eye – but the album lacks a true standout track. Maybe experimentation could have helped set a couple of songs apart even more.
Though Let Love Rule isn’t quite as strong of a package as 2014’s The Truth, the album is still a strong reminder that Ledisi’s in a class of her own vocally (Remember when I named her one of the best vocalists in R&B today? Listen to your boy.).When those Grammys roll around next year, she better be in the convo for a Best Female R&B Vocal Performance nod.
Regardless, Ledisi should rest easy knowing this fact – her brand of R&B is far from boring. It’s much too soul-stirring for that.
Best tracks: “All the Way,” “Shot Down,” “Add to Me”
3.5 stars out of 5