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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Overwhelming instrumentals drown out R&B soul

"Love Sex Passion"

Raheem DeVaughn

Raheem DeVaughn released his first album 10 years ago, and he’s been a rhythm-and-blues mainstay since. He’s acquired three Grammy nominations, and each of his last four albums have been in the Billboard top-10 R&B charts. His latest effort, “Love Sex Passion,” still has its moments, however, the lavish production hurts the intimate setting. The grandness of the instrumentation is ill-suited for DeVaughn’s smooth vocals, which results in an unremarkable but still enjoyable album.

The project is impressive from a production standpoint. There’s a wall of sound on many tracks. Unfortunately, this leaves some tracks feeling overproduced. “Black Ice Cream” has too much going on. Guitar riffs come out of nowhere and there are distracting background vocals. It’s a shame, as the wordplay is clever and DeVaughn has a good voice, but he rarely gets the chance to show it off.

One instance when the way the song is produced supports the crooning rather than masking it occurs on “Pretty Lady.” DeVaughn teams up with Trombone Shorty to create a soulful track. Shorty puts his instrument to good use and leaves the listener wanting more from these two together. The leading single, “Queen,” is a bit of a retread of DeVaughn’s hit “Woman,” but it’s still passionate. He sings in innuendo and gives thanks to his Queen, singing, “You gave birth to all the land/ You’re the backbone of every man/ You’re my queen.” “Woman” had these same themes, but boasts a catchier hook.

Nothing about “Love Sex Passion” is radio-friendly, but it is aptly named. When the passion comes through, largely from DeVaughn himself, “Love Sex Passion” is all its title claims. The production, loaded with simultaneous percussion, piano and loops, ends up being the record’s undoing.