Words by Edward T. Bowser, SoulInStereo.com
SWV knows exactly what the people want.
What they want is what they’ve been missing — that 1990s-era sound that only seems to live on in our iPod playlists and BET Soul reruns.
SWV’s fifth album, Still, is for the R&B fan who recorded songs straight from the radio on cassette tapes and raced home to catch the weekly video countdowns.
It’s a throwback to a sound that modern radio considers obsolete, but real fans will forever embrace.
“Ain’t No Man,” the first single from the venerable Sisters With Voices, was widely embraced last year for its simplicity. Harmonies glide in and out over gentle production while the trio declare affirmations of love for their men.
If that single moved you, you’ll love the album — it’s the same subtle, gimmick-free R&B that has made SWV one of the genre’s most beloved groups.
The title track “Still” kicks off the album by turning back the clock, leading into “MCE (Man Crush Everyday),” one of many examples of SWV showering their men with adoration. Why should man crushes only be recognized on Monday when brothers put in work all week long? SWV knows the importance of giving flowers while your loved ones can still smell them.
“On Tonight” and “Let’s Make Music” keeps the pace upbeat and the mood easy but the album switches gears album halfway through, slowing the pace for SWV’s brand of signature ballads. “When Love Didn’t Hurt” is a plea to return to better times, with the girls saying “It felt like December in the bedroom last night.” Thankfully, things don’t get too syrupy, with “Leaving You Alone” delivering an infectious, almost hypnotic groove.
The only song on the collection that takes SWV out of their comfort zone is “Love Song,” which is cut straight from DJ Mustard’s cloth. But SWV’s Day One’s shouldn’t run away screaming — though it’s clear the girls are blatantly (and understandably) restraining their vocals to keep pace with production, it remains a solid outing. Taj even comes through with 16 bars to lighten the mood. I mean, she’s no worse than most of the rappers mumbling all over your radio playlists, so it’s a good look.
Still may be a throwback to SWV’s glory days, but by no means is it outdated or stodgy. The vibe is energetic and the vocals are familiar and inviting. This isn’t an R&B memorial service, it’s a family reunion.
And when it comes to great music, these sisters still got it.
Best tracks: “Ain’t No Man,” “MCE (Man Crush Everyday),” “Leaving You Alone”
4 stars out of 5