R&B artist Trey Songz is now on his seventh studio album and a few years removed from his last big hit, though still maintaining an impressive level of relevance throughout his lengthy career. On this self-titled effort, he continues to deliver sensual soul anthems largely driven by his technically impressive voice, which carries the project when it dips in lyricism and originality. Tremaine The Album has just enough sonically adventurous standout tracks to make the argument that Songz is still providing a steady stream of quality R&B albums, but as younger artists with bigger ideas continue to assert themselves in the modern musical landscape, it remains to be seen if an effort which is seemingly on autopilot for half of its runtime will get lost in the shuffle.
As Songz is a purely R&B artist who has had a good level of success on pop radio over the years, the album is an unsurprising blend of R&B which skews closer to the darker, moodier alt-R&B which has been popularized by the OVO label recently, piano-driven slow jams which Songz has come to be known for, and pop-influenced swings for the radio fences which still feature Songz’ R&B vocal sensibilities.
Songz has primary writing credit on every song here, and many of the recognizable names assisting him reside in this category rather than production – which is surprising due to the latter being considerably stronger. Veteran R&B producer Rico Love shows up on 2 tracks here, while Dr. Luke associate Cirkut and Justin Bieber collaborator Poo Bear appear sporadically in secondary roles. R. City, Ester Dean and Luke himself, likely dating the material due to his current legal situation, provide lyrical assistance.
Songz is surprisingly at his best on the poppier tracks here, as R&B instrumentals have all become so similar recently. Although his voice should be better suited to a sparse musical landscape which allows him to ascend and descend the scales freely, when the sound of the album is broken up by a unique beat – such as the driving, bouncy piano medley and upfront, catchy chorus breaking from the somber, warbling R&B mindset on lead single “Nobody Else But You”, it captures the listener’s attention much quicker. The instrumental and melody on “Priceless” is so endearingly cheesy that it actually makes some of Songz’ more questionable lyrics work.
A few of the slower tracks, however, are certainly saved by Songz’ abilities on the mic. Typically sticking to his lower register, much of the appeal comes from the surprise when he transitions into a falsetto with the same ease. “Playboy” is another great track, featuring some 90s-influenced synth piano and minimalistic trap hi-hats, as Songz convincingly details his struggle with commitment despite knowing it is what he wants. It is the greatest marriage of engaging lyrics, upbeat instrumental and allowance of room for Songz’ impressive vocal runs and trills to shine on the project.
Lyricism is a main detraction from the enjoyment of these songs – Songz all but throws away the concept of metaphor and simile in his bedroom jams, and gets straight to the point in a way that can be unnecessarily explicit. He doesn’t even fully commit to this explicitness as others do, almost coming across as immature as a result. The chorus of “#1Fan”, which I’d rather not replicate in text, is a perfect example of this – the song sounds perfectly fine musically, but as soon as the chorus hits it brings you completely out of the experience due to the repetition of a certain cringeworthy line.
Other areas of the album see lazy songwriting in terms of themes which have been done to death, such as the track “Animal”. Here we see yet another artist compare the uninhibited side of themselves to various animals, complete with awful animal puns. Another recent trend in R&B which is negatively reflected on the song “The Sheets…Still” is needlessly stretching a darker, ambient song far past its limits, somehow almost always choosing to repeat a particularly unpleasant motif. Here, Songz drones on for close to 3 minutes about his partner’s nails leaving scratches on him. On a 15 track album, there is a definite lack of originality here as well.
Trey Songz’ good intentions on this project are certainly there, but for the most part he appears to be stuck in the past. Still a talented artist capable of leaving an impact on listeners, Songz is now seven albums deep and needs to find a new sound to fit his personality rather than attempting to follow modern trends and only getting halfway there.
Favourite Tracks: Priceless, Nobody Else But You, Playboy, Song Goes Off
Least Favourite Track: Animal