All Monsters are Human (released January 31, 2020)
Like it or not, K. Michelle keeps it real when the truth hurts.
On “Just Like Jay,” the opener to her fifth LP All Monsters are Human, K. Michelle lashes out at “a world where you tell the truth and they call you crazy for it.”
She’s speaking the truth.
A few weeks ago, K. Michelle caught heat on social media for speaking her mind about R&B’s latest wave of artists:
“Up early listening to new R&B artist and this is the best way to fall asleep. This s*** has no soul and it boring. It plays like one big lullaby. I’m so confused by it.”
Critics wasted no time going for K. Michelle’s edges, including, sigh, Tank, who couldn’t wait to play Captain Save a Ho…peless R&B singer. Tank stepped in to “apologize” to all the young artists because “I see too much hate from old people.”
Tank’s been hanging in the club with 22-year-olds so long that his brain is melting. First off, Tank, you’re 44. K. Michelle is younger than YOU are. Secondly, you’re missing her point – this isn’t about old vs young. K. Michelle realizes that R&B is a genre that was built on passionate, meaningful performances and thoughtful songwriting – it’s the essence of soul. In 2020, that passion has been overtaken by dull writing, monotone vocals and lifeless energy.
If other artists are incapable of pumping life back into R&B, K. Michelle is ready to fire back. It plays into the theme of All Monsters are Human, in her words: “We create our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about our ourselves.”
She’s the monster y’all made.
K. Michelle has never been afraid to showcase her inner fury, as she does on “Just Like Jay,” a revealing track where she contemplates giving up the game after dealing with a label that attempted to make her a Mary J. Blige clone and a man who was off chasing his ex. “Maybe you’ll realize when I’m gone this was about more than songs,” she wearily proclaims.
But don’t ever think K. Michelle will take an L without going down fighting. She brings out the trap drums on the menacing “That Game.” Her man has a side piece? Cool, she’ll just get one too. She’s at her most entertaining when she’s reading her ex the riot act, whether on “Something New” (“You gonna make me run you over, vehicular”) or “Ciara’s Prayer” (“ain’t no Future anyway, pray the prayer Ciara prayed”).
It’s not all fire and fury, though. First single “The Rain” successfully flips New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain” into a sex anthem. I’m also a sucker for a well-placed guitar so it didn’t take much for the great production of “All the Lovers” to pull me in.
Some of the album’s later songs lack the personality of earlier tracks. “OMG” and “Supahood” lack the biting songwriting of superior tracks, making them feel much more generic.
The strength of All Monsters are Human, and K. Michelle’s music in general, is her willingness to be totally transparent. I love the dichotomy between “I Don’t Like You” and “Table for One.” The former is essentially a piano ballad diss track, where K. Michelle goes at her man and his ENTIRE FAMILY. Even his mama catches a stray. But the latter is much more remorseful than angry as she solemnly faces this harsh new reality of loneliness.
Passionate, meaningful performances. Thoughtful songwriting. THAT’S what K. Michelle was trying to explain. And I’m glad she’s here to show and prove.
All Monsters are Human is far from perfect – things get much too uneven on the second half – but it’s honest, emotional R&B.
It’s what R&B is supposed to be.
Best tracks: “The Rain,” “All the Lovers,” “Just Like Jay”
3.5 stars out of 5