From the early ’90s and throughout, Jon B, as well as a few others, had the R&B game on lock, mesmerising with his passionate ballads, doting love songs, uptempo club numbers and seductively smooth ride out jams. Continuing into the new millennium, many argue that while R&B as a genre was on the decline Jon’s finest offering came in 2004 when he offloaded the dark, deep and honest Stronger Everyday. While to date he’s released six official albums, including the more recent Helpless Romantic and Comfortable Swagg, his newest project focuses more on what the genre used to sound like as opposed to what it has become.
Featuring 23 songs recorded between the years of 2001 and 2012, B-Sides is a project full of unreleased material dedicated to his longstanding followers who have been down since day one. Blending each track into the next, you’re witness to an ongoing instrumental journey that cruises through the years. With something for everybody, the records with that reminiscent ’90s bounce appear to be the ones that dominate the album’s tracklisting.
Having leaked just a few weeks ago, ‘Settle Down Type’ sets the tone for the entire B-Sides project. With head nodding qualities that span way past the average R&B newbie’s creative process, the sentimental subject matter combined with constant handclaps and keyboard sound effect switch ups make for one hell of a piece of music.
Immediately following this is yet another cohesively on-point slice of creativity in the form of ‘Get On’. Slightly slower than its predecessor, the LA residing singer oozes passion and professionalism on this one with swagger added for good measure. Cooler than the other side of the pillow, fans of the singer’s Cool Relax days will find this more to their liking.
While Jon is someone able to hit the high notes, he doesn’t always have to. ‘Excuse Me Girl‘ is a good example of this. Full of hip-hop soundbites, with a mid-tempo bob, his almost talk-like vocal delivery is a perfect fit for the track’s backdrop. Sexy and suggestive, the record plays as an invite in to Jon’s fantasy-driven thoughts and feelings. Neither pushy or featuring a lack of confidence, the classy vibe that echoes from start to finish is perfect for a night full of passion.
Downsides to a project like this always include the flow of the tracklisting. With it being a collection of previously unreleased gems it’s hard to put them in an order that moves consistently in the right direction. While the inclusion of the sped up house-inspired joints are kept until the final stretch, the grouping of the project’s slow jams are positioned slap bang before the house joints which shifts the mood from one extreme to another. However, to reiterate, this is a collection of records crafted at different times during different years so it is to be expected in a sense.
On the house tip, ‘Silver Moon’ is a definite banger that any underground house venue or radio station will be dying to get a piece of. Then there’s the lengthy ‘Do What You Know’, which plays like a mood setting uptempo number that bar goers in the upmarket areas of the world will gravitate towards. Questions arise as to why the album features a track by the name of ‘Dreamy Eyes’ that stands at only 1:10 in length, doesn’t feature any Jon B lyrics, and is slipped in between the two previously mentioned house tunes. Aside from this, the house selection is a welcome one to Jon B’s ever growing repertoire.
B-Sides main highlights include the drum-steered ‘Rain Drops’ – a mid-tempo gem that is very reminiscent of early Ne-Yo – and the loved up ‘I’m Showin’ U’ – a short but sweet offering complete with a powerfully beautiful string arrangement. With that said, much of the album is inspirational in the sense that it’s new material recorded during an era where R&B actually stood for rhythm and blues.
Fans of Jon B are sure to love it. Fans of ’90s/early 2000’s R&B will find it refreshing; and those wanting a taste of things to come will find it intriguing, because we all know that real R&B is on its way back into fashion. Just like with anything, what was once the in thing will once again become the in thing, and Jon B is just reminding folks how to do it.