Album Review: Mya, TKO (The Knock Out)

tko

Mya

TKO (The Knock Out) (released April 20, 2018)

Let me blow your mind, Eve and Gwen Stefani style – Mya is a 20-year music veteran.

Obviously, we were introduced to her in 1998, back when she threw that private dance show for Sisqo and his fuzzy bucket hat. Soon after, she rose both the R&B and pop charts as one of the most recognizable starts of the new millennium.

And while most mainstream fans probably think she’s been in hibernation since her love was like … wo, she’s steadily yet quietly been releasing music all this time, even racking up a Grammy nomination for her 2016 album Smoove Jones.

Twenty years flew by, and Mya’s been grinding the whole time.

You can take just one look at the cover of TKO (The Knock Out) if you’re wondering about the direction of Mya’s latest project. It’s grown n’ sexy R&B, plain and simple, delivered with the poise of an industry vet.

“The Fall” starts the show with bass-heavy production and an atmospheric aura. It’s all about setting a mood with a bit of edge. The track also included a cool shout out to 2003’s “Fallen,” low key one of Mya’s best songs.

“Open” keep the shades drawn and the lights down but the inclusion of Goldlink keeps things from getting too dreary. That’s the one pitfall Mya wisely avoids, she knows how to keep the mood mellow and the listener engaged.

“Down” sounds sultry over tinkling keys while “Ready (Part III – 90s Bedroom Mix)” lives up to its billing as an R. Kelly-inspired remix. “Damage” is the real gem – y’all know I’m a sucker for an electric guitar and the ever-present wailing injects a lot of energy into the evening. It’s proof you can set the mood without falling asleep before game time.

However, that doesn’t mean that TKO is bulletproof. Sometimes simplicity is its shortcoming. Coincidentally that starts with “Simple Things,” which is very sound sonically but a little pedestrian lyrically. I mean, how often have we heard “I don’t want a dime, I just want a little of your time?” “You Got Me” is a bit harmless but aimless while the title track’s boxing metaphors get a little heavy handed. Um, no pun intended.

Thankfully, the album ends on an upswing with “With You” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” with the former featuring a particularly catchy groove.

TKO is another quietly solid release in Mya’s catalog. But that’s no shock – after 20 years, Mya’s got this R&B thing sewn up.

Best tracks: “Damage,” “With You,” “Ready (Part III – 90s Bedroom Mix)”

3.5 stars out of 5

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