Back Home (released October 9, 2020)
Thank God for Troy Taylor. Trey is finally Ready again.
Back in 2009, when R&B was experiencing a changing of the guard, it was Trigga Trey who seemed primed to be the heir apparent to R&B’s throne. Trey found incredible chemistry with veteran producer Troy Taylor, resulting in his third album Ready, beloved Anticipation mixtape and follow up LP Passion, Pain and Pleasure laying the groundwork for a decade of dominance.
Trey certainly enjoyed his share charting success, but as the decade rolled on, he also seemed to lose focus. So-so club anthems and inconsistent LPs clouded his once-promising resume, although 2017’s underrated Tremaine seemed to get Songz back on track.
Now with his mentor back back in tow, Trey lives up to the promise of his album title. No more moonlighting as a rapper, no more jarring party cuts – Trey’s back in his soulful comfort zone.
I’ll be honest, Back Home‘s early singles didn’t really move me (with one exception that we’ll get to later). Tracks like “Circles” and “Two Ways” were far from disappointments, but they felt more like sturdy album cuts than blow-away hits.
Don’t worry, Trey has much more fire in the chamber.
The album opens with “Be My Guest,” and trust, this ain’t Beauty & The Beast, it’s classic Trey gleefully playing the role of Mr. Steal Your Girl. “She keep me like her panties, somewhere over to the side” – only Trey can deliver lines like this with conviction.
Trey’s confidence is just half the story; without solid production, even the best intentions fall short. Taylor, along with a host of other producers, keep Back Home sonically strong, from the inviting groove of “Save Me” to the midtempo bounce of “On Top of Me.” Yes, we’re mainly in slow-jam territory, but there’s enough diversity to keep things from getting too dull, as well as consistency to make the project a cohesive body of work. It’s well done and greatly appreciated.
Speaking of production, there are a few surprises. First single “Back Home” curiously blends New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love” and Cam’Ron’s “Oh Boy” for a captivating track. Yeah it sounds like someone hit random select on a Mortal Kombat character screen but trust me, it works, hitting all the right nostalgia notes while being unique enough to stand on its own. And hey, Summer Walker’s here and I don’t mind her contribution! Truly an October Surprise.
Swae Lee and Ty Dolla Sign also show up for “Pain” and “On Call,” respectively, and while you’d think this would revert Songz back to his Trappin’ Trey persona, that’s not the case at all. “Pain” especially resonates as Trey bears his soul in an attempt to battle life’s storms. “In reality, love and happiness live next to pain,” he croons.
Of course, every trip Back Home is bound to have its share of potholes, and this album isn’t immune from them. Like many of his peers, Trey often gives us too much to digest in one sitting. Back Home’s 22 tracks run well over an hour and it would be a much tighter project with some trims. “Hit Different” and “Cats Got My Tongue” are creative in their raunchiness but certainly nothing we haven’t heard before. “Sleepless Nights” with DaVido could ride the afrobeats wave to radio success but outside of current trends doesn’t stand out on its own. Those tracks lack the standout vocal performances of “All this Love” or the A-1 production of “Lost & Found.” Even “Hands On,” which almost feels like an interlude, made a bigger impression long after the record stopped spinning.
From the ode to fatherhood that is “I Know a Love” to the pleas for justice that “2020 Riots: How Many Times” bring, Back Home is the maturing slice of soul that longtime Trey fans have sought for years.
I’ve already seen a few major music outlets bemoan Back Home for having “too many slow jams” and not enough “flair.” Well, if you wanna party, Trigga and Chapter V are the albums for you. Been there, done that. For the rest of us, Trey Songz has finally delivered an authentic R&B album for R&B fans.
Best tracks “Lost & Found,” “Back Home,” “Hands On”
4 stars out of 5