SWV | I Missed Us

SWV - I Missed Us II

SWV | I Missed Us
(Mass Appeal/eOne Music)
By Brent Faulkner

SWV (Sisters With Voices) was a popular 1990‘s female R&B trio comprised of Tamara “Taj” George, Cheryl “Coko” Clemons and Leann “Lelee” Lyons. SWV return with 2012’s I Missed Us, their fourth studio effort and first new album in fifteen years since 1997’s Release Some Tension (excluding 1999’s A Special Christmas). Remarkably, middle age has done nothing to curtail the trio’s magical voices. If anything, the extended hiatus has only ripened and strengthened SWV’s instruments. The harmonies are intact, the production well-crafted to straddle the line between adult contemporary and more modern urban idioms, and the songwriting is consistently strong. I Missed Us is easily one of 2012’s most welcome arrivals and perhaps most unexpected surprises. Making it even more impressive is how sound the quality of the album is given its independent release (eOne/Mass Appeal). Marcus “DI” Siskind serves as executive producer while Cory Taylor and SWV serve as co-execs, with Cainon Lamb producing and co-writing many of the songs.

First single “Co-Sign” is brilliant, providing SWV with an old-school, throwback adult contemporary R&B laden sound. The dusty, soulful drums are intact, as is the classic electric piano timbre. The songwriting is strong, particularly on the catchy refrain: “Love will be right here / I will dry your tears / Ready for a wifey and kids / Never had nothing like this, hey / Baby if you ask me for my love…baby I co-sign, co-sign…” Add a change of harmonic scheme during the emotional bridge and “Co-Sign” is nothing short of superb. Follow-up cut “All About You” keeps the momentum high and the tempo relatively quick, using two unique samples in “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” (Paul Simon) and “Party Anthem Acapella” (Big Kap & Fatman Scoop). The old-school hip-hop groove suites the `90s stars perfectly without sounding the least bit anachronistic. The lead vocals remain commanding throughout while smoother background vocals carry yet another well penned refrain. Again, the structure/form of the songwriting follows a similar scheme to the ‘ace-in-the-hole’ “Co-Sign,” which is smart.

“Show Off,” a third Cainon Lamb produced cut keeps the quality level lofty, even if it is slightly less alluring than the previous ‘stunners.’ “Show Off” possesses a modern ‘hip-hop credibility’ as far as drum programming without compromising the age and veteran stature of SWV; the balance is superb. While “Show Off” continues overall consistency, “Everything I Love” turns consistency into sheer excellence, delivering arguably the album’s most soulful, memorable cut. The neo-soul quality is a change of direction from the adult-contemporary dominated sound, making this cut sound indigenous to the 1970s yet still fresh in 2012. The songwriting is sharp, particularly the hook line “Baby don’t let nothing break us, let’s keep it concrete” as well as the incredibly heart-wrenching, genuine refrain: “Boy you’re my heart and I’m down for you rich or poor / If you’ll still be right here / I put it all, everything I love…” Harmonized vocals seal the deal, just like ‘icing on a cake.’

SWV speed things up with the up-tempo “Do Ya,” featuring Brianna Perry. It has a hard act to follow considering the brilliance of “Everything I Love,” but more than passes the test. The girls easily nail the rhythmic vocal lines and deliver another ‘red hot’ refrain. Perry is none too shabby herself on her rap. “The Best Years” and “I Missed Us,” both Lamb productions, keep the bar ‘raised high,’ even though they fall short of the grace of the most victorious, triumphant moments of I Missed Us. Lamb hits another ‘home run’ however on the lush, urban sounding “Better Than I,” which finds SWV taking a more casual, restrained approach on the verses. Despite this vibe, the girls snarl on the refrain: “I’m a keep it 100 / She ain’t got nothin’ that can prove why…don’t go thinkin’ that she’s better than I.” “Keep You Home,” the final cut produced and co-written by Lamb, features a slower tempo, smartly contrasting the medium tempo of “Better Than I.” The string pads are lovely within this cut, not to mention the sultry lower register that SWV employ. Again, the harmonies ‘pop’ with sheer brilliance.

“Time to Go” and “Use Me” are both produced by Bryan-Michael Cox (Mary J. Blige, “Be Without You”). “Time to Go” is solid, but not particularly exceptional. “Use Me” is a much better showing, given its six-feel and its well-crafted adult-contemporary, ‘grown-folks’ R&B sound. I Missed Us ends with two bangs through the Ivan & Carvin produced “Love Unconditionally” (“Could you be, be the one for me / That is really all I need / Someone to love me unconditionally…”) and a superb, classic cover of Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew.” The album ends as brilliantly as it opened.

Overall I Missed Us sets a mark for how to make a solid R&B album in 2012. SWV and their respective producers crafted an album that smartly suits their age (forties) but also does not make them sound ‘old.’ There are no overt misses to speak of, making I Missed Us one of the most consistent releases of 2012. Solid R&B by ALL means.

Official Website: The Real SWV

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene