Sometimes itâ€™s hard to figure out what to make of the current R&B landscape. The R&B band has all but disappeared, the divas of yesteryear still exist in a radically faded state with no ladies in waiting to replace them, and as for the guys? Well, most male R&B singers either spend their time trying to be rappers or trying to be Michael Jackson. Nothing against rappers or MJ, but youâ€™ve gotta wonder what happened to what they call â€œgrown folksâ€ R&B. Stick-to-your-ribs soul music. A man who sounds like an adult instead of a perpetually horny teenager, someone with real-life perspective. An artist capable of filling the void created when Gerald LeVert and Luther Vandross passed away. Well, if Anthony Hamilton hasnâ€™t found his way into your music collection yet, I strongly suggest you check him out right now.
North Carolina-born, Harlem-based Anthony Hamilton is still pretty much under the radar. Despite selling a combined 1.5 million copies of his first two albums, the majority of music listeners-even fans of R&B- music fans would be hard-pressed to name three songs from the guy. That anonymity has prevented him from getting his props, because 37-year old Hamilton is easily one of the best-if not THE best- singer in his genre. His raspy tone has drawn comparisons to everyone from Bill Withers to Bobby Womack, and heâ€™s proven himself to be one of the few current artists capable of sounding like an authentic throwback (as opposed to a pale facsimile) and completely contemporary at the same time. He appeals equally to men and women, although the (formerly) scruffy, diminutive Hamilton is not the traditional R&B sex symbol. His music has a strong spiritual element to it (the song â€œPass Me Overâ€, from his last album, literally got me through a very trying period several years ago), and the guy throws down live. Believe me, yâ€™all. Anthony Hamilton is the whole package.
Rumors of his third album, The Point of it All, being a more â€œuptempoâ€ affair caught me off-guard and had me thinking the worst. After all, Hamilton certainly wouldnâ€™t be the first favorite artist of mine to make a sellout move after showing promise. My fears were compounded when I realized the first single, Cool, featured a guest spot from rapper David Banner. Again, I love my hip-hop just like I love my R&B, but there are definite times when the two donâ€™t need to mix, and although Hamilton has made guest appearances on a couple of popular rap singles, I felt like the addition of a guest emcee on a Hamilton album was a compromise of sorts.
Thank goodness, my fears turned out to be unnecessary. While The Point of it All has added a few elements to make Hamilton sound a little more contemporary, itâ€™s basically still an Anthony Hamilton album. Fans of his first two albums will find much to enjoy here.
Cool actually turns out to be a pretty decent song, a mellow midtempo track with a fairly unobtrusive (and witty) rap section from Banner, but itâ€™s far from the best song on the album (actually, itâ€˜s one of the weakest).Â The News opens the album and immediately sets the tone for everything that follows with a groove and socially conscious lyrics that recall both Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. Listen to a song like this and itâ€™s no wonder that the guys who put together the music for American Gangster (which was set in the early Seventies) picked Hamilton to perform two original songs on the soundtrack . Prayinâ€™ for You/Superman is a two-part song that stretches Hamilton out with a little bit of country twang followed by some piano blues. Itâ€™s pretty ballsy for an R&B artist and shows why musicians as diverse as country star Josh Turner and blues-rocker Jonny Lang have sought him out to work with. Hamilton even proves that he can handle adult contemporary balladry. He pulls off a song like Her Heart beautifully when it would be mush in any other artistâ€™s hands.
Hamiltonâ€™s more spiritually inclined work hits me the hardest, and to me, this albumâ€™s centerpiece is Fine Again. Itâ€™s got a hopeful message andÂ pleading vocals that put it head and shoulders above the rest of the album.
One good album can be a fluke. Two good albums suggest potential greatness. Three great albums seals the deal. With The Point of it All, Hamilton has sewn up his position as one of the most talented R&B artists around. Hopefully, this will be the time that the world-at-large realizes this.
See the video for “Cool” here.