Back in 2007, when R&B crooner J. Holiday dropped his debut album, his career was filled with promise. Even my wife, who can’t stomach most R&B produced this millennium, was a huge fan of his singles “Bed” and “Suffocate.” Holiday was brimming with potential.
But potential doesn’t pay the light bill.
Holiday’s subsequent release became a victim to the dreaded sophomore jinx but it’s his most current effort, Guilty Conscience, that might finally turn that potential into promise.
Unquestionably, Guilty Conscience is a conceptual victory. Chance are you’ve heard Holiday’s most recent single, “Incredible,” a light-hearted, breezy tune that has him lavishing his woman with compliments? Well, as it turns out, that’s all part of his pimp game. Make no mistake, he’s chasing the draws.
The first third of the album is all about subtle seduction, and produces the set’s best songs. The horns on “Thinking About You” burst with energy, creating an infectious big-band feel. Although “After We F***” is too heavy handed and drifts too far into Trey Songz’s lane, “Cloud 9” is a better portrait of temptation and lust.
From there, the album switches from passion to paranoia. The masterful title track has Holiday descending into madness – he thinks his girl is cheating but he’s not sure if she really is or if he’s just overcome with guilt from his own unfaithfulness. Paranoia is eating him alive – it’s the kind of storytelling that is often lost in modern R&B. Things get even worse for J. as he starts making excuses for his mistakes, basically saying he was the one who was seduced on “Ms. Get Around” (“I tasted danger when I tasted her lips … she poisoned me with a single kiss”) and his cheating finally catches up to him on “Wrong Turn.” I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s a cautionary tale for anyone who considers creeping.
The final third of album is mostly filled with sorrow and regret. The content isn’t nearly as strong as the earlier tracks but most remain solid, with the standout being the closer “Heaven,” which shines with warmth and sincerity.
Guilty Conscience reminds me a lot of Bilal’s 2013 A Love Surreal. Individually the tracks aren’t bad but when packed together and played in sequence, the listener gains so much more. It’s good to see J. Holiday’s potential beginning to pay off.
Best tracks: “Thinkin About You,” “Guilty Conscience,” “Cloud 9”
4 stars out of 5