Words by Edward T. Bowser, SoulInStereo.com
Want more proof confirming why YouKnowIGotSoul.com is the best site for R&B in these Internet streets?
Well, besides employing the best and most knowledgeable writers on the planet (*Round of Applause*), this is also the place to learn about great, talented artists who aren’t being shoved down your throats on the radio.
If not for YKIGS, I would never know John Michael. And I would have missed out on his great album.
For over a year, we’ve been chronicling the singer/songwriter’s journey as he quietly dropped videos leading up to his LP, Sophisticated. And as those releases proved, Michael’s opus is an R&B purist’s dream.
Like Joe Thomas at his peak or Babyface at his best, Michael’s vocals never overpower. They glide alongside the track, intertwining seamlessly. It’s harmony. It’s also a lost art.
The album starts off with current single “Arrive.” The midtempo groove sets the tone for the experience. His vocals side along the track of “Before This Drink Is Done” while the beat tinkles. Those vocals sound equally impressive on the acoustic feel-good number “Summer Wind” and the soaring “You Got It.”
Don’t expect the mind-blowing production of Justin Timberlake’s latest or the speaker-rattling star power of TGT’s most recent release. Michael embraces his everyman image, and that gives him his charm. “Just A Man” portrays him as just an ordinary, flawed guy as he honesty casts aside the illusion of perfection. “I can’t tell you with a straight face that our future is planned out,” he croons. “I Regret It” drips with remorse while “Don’t Know Me Anymore” is upfront with its heartbreak. He’s human, and that makes this music so accessible.
The tempo raises a bit on tracks like “One Last Time” and “Played With My Mind” but overall the mood is mostly subdued. Still, I wish there was a bit more diversity – a smooth ride is good but there’s nothing wrong with few curves and bumps to make the experience memorable.
If you want to get the gist of Sophisticated, just check out “Secrets.” It’s simple, no-frills ’90s era R&B. And it works.
John Michael almost flew under my radar. Don’t make that mistake.
Best tracks: “Arrive,” “Secrets,” “Played With My Mind”
4 stars out of 5