It’s a pretty good indication that you’ve made it when a single syllable is enough to alert someone of who you’re talking about. But when you’re in your 18th year and on your ninth studio album, there isn’t really very much doubting that, anyway. Having been nominated for his first ‘best album’ award in 2001 with My Name is Joe, it is safe to say that at least for our generation, he has been gracing our ears pretty much since we could tell the difference between what makes good music, and what doesn’t.
Unfortunately for Joe perhaps, what’s considered good music has changed significantly since his reigning years, causing much of his offerings since circa 2008 to have gone largely unnoticed. This leads to the question of whether he has been able to adapt to these changes in his most recent offering, The Good, The Bad, The Sexy.
And at first listen, the question is a relatively easy one to answer. Leaving much to the strength of his voice and lyrics, the production on the album tends to be very simplistic, mid-tempo groovers, with no big-name producers to be seen on the list of credits. This wouldn’t be a problem had the aforementioned not fallen slightly short of expectations. We’ve heard it all before. From him. On all eight of his previous albums.
Considering the diversity that is daily being sprung from the R&B well, it’s a shame Joe makes no effort to clasp onto any of them, instead sticking to a recycled sound and recycled subject matters. Commendable as it is that he has remained true to himself, it is slightly worrying that over the course of an 18 year career he hasn’t really changed very much. And when listening to a Joe album, we already know what to expect. From top to bottom; love, lust and romance. The topics are as old as R&B itself, but slightly grating on this album. Okay, we get it, Joe.
That’s not to say that the album is not worth listening to. Some tracks, such as ‘Almost There’ remind us of what we liked about Joe to begin with. The track features soul-warming vocals and some of the biggest sounds that appear on the 11-track project.
Joe – “Almost There”:
‘Impossible,’ the penultimate track on the album also injects some hope into the dismayed listener. Telling tales of trying and failing to fulfill a girlfriends demands the track is one of the most (and only) memorable ones, with the change in subject matter a welcome surprise.
Although it is undeniable that Joe has command of one hell of a voice, the recycled sounds seem to become more and more grating as the album progresses, with few (to no) breaks from the norm to perk or summon interest. They really don’t make them like that anymore. But if they did, would we even be there to listen? There’s an expression that goes a little something like; “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Take that as you will.