Eric Benét | The One

Eric Benet - The One

Eric Benét
The One
(Warner Bros.)
by Brent Faulkner

Eric Benét’s sixth studio album The One picks up where 2010’s Lost in Time left off – with Eric continuing to play into his role of soul-revivalist and soul-preserver. The One is filled with and characterized by lush productions comprised of strings, horns, swirling electric piano, organ and harmonized vocals. That said, The One does not bring anything ‘new’ to the table that one hasn’t heard form Benét. It does, however, add another sound effort to Benét’s underrated musical output. Face it – that falsetto is ‘killer.’

“Harriett Jones,” which plays off a line from the spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” (“Swing Low Sweet Harriett / Baby, want you let me come home…”) opens the effort with EP (?!?!) and a pronounced ‘old school’ vibe. Co-written by Benét and George Nash, Jr., the cut sets the tone for The One with soulful, seventies-styled horns. Opting against his signature falsetto, Benét sings within his chest voice, equally commanding. “News For You” doesn’t miss. Benét’s vocal performance is beautiful, not to mention the layering of background vocals. The soulful ‘frenzy’ achieved towards the conclusion of the cut is noteworthy.

Naturally, the first single “Real Love” (released back in 2011) delivers a K.O. punch. The sole skepticism for “Real Love” is its comparability to the falsetto-aerobics of “Sometimes I Cry” from Lost in Time. Regardless of comparisons, “Real Love” is a stunning cut, if for nothing more than its chivalrousness: “We’ve got something real girl (real love).” Factor in dramatic key changes and you’ve achieved the complete package. “Runnin’” has a hard act to follow but delivers solidly. Set in the six-eight time signature, the retro sound of this song is highly present, though not anachronistically. The production is an amalgamation of soul, jazz, and adult-R&B. Benét is characterized here by restrained, chest-facilitated vocals.

“Red Bone Girl” attempts to mesh Al Green’s Memphis soul sound with more hip-hop oriented production. The Memphis sound prevails but Lil Wayne’s rap seems clumsy and unnecessary. “Waitin’” restores any ceded momentum, driven by its soulful groove and capable arrangement. Benét manages some truly gritty ad libs vocally. Additionally, a funky bridge delivers one of the strongest moments of the entire album. Unfortunately where “Waitin’” triumphs, the songwriting team on “Hope That It’s You” (featuring Shaggy) ‘lay an egg.’ While change of pace is smart, the opt for a reggae-infused sound yields mixed results. The cut feels too much like a gimmicky novelty.

Atonement is just around the corner as “Gonna Be My Girl,” a Benét/Demonté Posey co-write, delivers. The sound is a modern adult-R&B sound and a much needed change of pace. Benét’s vocals are restrained initially, though the singer achieves more grit upon the second verse. Comparable to Tank’s recent hit “Next Breath,” “Gonna Be My Girl” suits Benét’s strengths giving “Real Love” a run for its money. “Come Together” maintains this momentum, finding Benét opting for a steamier and more salacious sound (though not quite to the R. Kelly extreme). Harmonically, the cut is brilliant, showcasing sound musicianship.

The funky “Muzik,” co-penned by and featuring Benét’s daughter India, is a quicker cut, though fails to supersede the best. “Lay It Down” is less satisfactory, missing that extra something to take the cut to the next level. “Here In My Arm (Lucia’s Lullaby)” delivers solid lyrics, production and vocals, but never escapes feeling more ‘B’ than ‘A.‘ The album-closer “Come Home To Me” featuring Jewl Anguay delivers a different sound, but aside from such, closes averagely.

Overall, The One is a solid addition to Benét’s discography and to the R&B world. Benét is the rare male R&B artist not aiming to ‘crossover’ with electro-pop rumination and the trends currently dominating music. That is commendable. In the same breath, the question arises whether Benét’s sometimes formulaic approaches will win him a new audience or sustain his core without ‘shakeups.’ Conjecturing aside, The One is a solid soul album.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene