Ledisi | Pieces of Me

Album Review: Ledisi | Pieces of Me
by Brent Faulkner

In today’s R&B world, many artists on the ‘wrong side’ of Top 40
find themselves trying to compromise or ‘bridge the gap’ to become part
of the radio fold. Ledisi’s fifth studio effort, 2011’s Pieces of Me is
no different. On Pieces of Me, the incredibly gifted singer explores
her identity and exudes ‘more of her personality’ for both her fans’
sake and radio. Overall, the results are positive and Ledisi is able to
show her versatility and range. The argument or counterargument might
be, why should an artist so esteemed and talented as Ledisi try to
conform to commercial guidelines that may not showcase her full range of
talents? Essentially, that would be the flaw of Pieces of Me – it is a
solid effort, but some of the material lacks the greatness of Ledisi’s
previous works 2007’s Lost & Found or 2009’s Turn Me Loose because
it tries to conform more to popular standards. Indeed, there is no Tina
Turner-like rocker like “Knockin’” from Turn Me Loose, but the
‘Nawlins’ singer definitely ‘holds it down.’

“Pieces of Me” is a fine cut from Ledisi. Produced and co-written with
Chuck Harmony & Claude Kelly, “Pieces of Me” is to Ledisi what
“Bittersweet” was to Fantasia. An instant adult contemporary R&B
hit, “Pieces” is a superb way to open the album and Ledisi vocally
sounds fierce. Reuniting with Rex Rideout producing (and co-writing),
“So Into You” is just as solid, with grand production work and solid
songwriting. Ledisi handles all vocal duties, including backgrounds,
and sounds absolutely marvelous. The soulful guitar/electric piano
driven sound is a perfect fit for this soulful vocalist. “Bravo” may be
the biggest concession of Ledisi, finding the singer channeling some of
the gimmickry of modern adult-contemporary R&B. While she sounds
solid and pulls this cut off, the Claude Kelly/John Webb cut seems more
suited for say Monica, Jennifer Hudson, or Fantasia than Ledisi.
Regardless, Ledisi ‘sings her face off.’

“Stay Together” is a fine duet between Jaheim and Ledisi. Rex Rideout
once again handles production duties giving the track a similar sound to
“So Into You” and some of Ledisi’s earlier material. “Coffee” trumps
it, however, with its clever sampling of Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Black
Frost.” “Coffee” truly allows for Ledisi to show off her jazzy and
bluesy influenced side, which is superb. “Hate Me” changes the pace,
shifting to a soulful six groove for the first time. The use of
keyboards, bass, guitar, and horns makes this track a fine listen.
Again, Ledisi’s bluesier side is exhibited throughout a neo-soul cut
such as this.

“Shut Up,” a Mike City/Ledisi songwriting and production collaboration
yields a fine outcome with a diverse sound in comparison to other cuts.
Ledisi’s vocals are much more tame and controlled on this cut, a
contrast to her more overt turns on many of the other cuts. That said,
it works perfectly, further affirming Ledisi’s range as a musician.
“Shine” is another credible cut, notable for its production, while “I
Miss You Now” is an absolutely gorgeous adult contemporary cut. The
low-key vibe may be what sticks out with “I Miss You Now”; Ledisi lets
the soulfulness ‘churn.’

“BGTY,” which stands for “be good to yourself” is another winner, adding
neo-soul producer/songwriter Salaam Remi to the mix (Jazmine Sullivan
“Bust Your Windows,” etc.) The old school vibe works perfectly with
Ledisi’s throwback vocals and allows a more overt Ledisi to shine,
contrasting the cool, calm, collected nature of “I Miss You Now.”
“Raise Up” features funky production work, but lacks the extra spark
that a cut like “Knockin’” from album Turn Me Loose possessed. Closer “I
Gotta Get To You” is perhaps a bit too slow and the slightest bit
underwhelming, but as always Ledisi sounds solid.

Overall, Pieces of Me is another solid addition to Ledisi’s discography.
Hard core fans may revolve more to Ledisi’s earlier work given there’s
more of an element of raw soul than some of the cuts of this effort.
One thing’s for sure, flaws aside, Ledisi’s vocal talents shine
throughout the ‘sunshine and the rain.’ Pieces of Me is no different.

Brent Faulkner

The Urban Music Scene

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