Tuesday, April 17
Better than: Veteran performers trying to prove that they’re “down with the kids.”
The new album by SWV, which came out yesterday, is called I Missed Us—it’s the R&B trio’s first release in 15 years, hitting at a time when their new-jill-swing legacy is intact through retromania, if not exactly in most songs currently in radio rotation. (Beyoncé’s throwbacky “Love On Top” is at the pinnacle of the R&B chart at the moment, but its lush romanticism is something of an anomaly on the increasingly taken-over-by-robotic-beats radio.)
In this type of environment—where a beloved artist returns to landscape that has shape-shifted away from its aesthetic—”comeback” albums can be treacherous waters to navigate. On the one hand, there are legacies that to be mindful of and already-existent fanbases that have certain expectations. But on the other—this is the sadder hand, in case you were wondering—there is the specter of current trends, the lure of possibly breaking out of the retro world for a hot minute. The more insecure (or craven) artists out there feel they have to pay fealty to these shifting winds. In keeping with its title, though, I Missed Us bucks the trends and keeps itself firmly planted in the tradition that SWV operated in during the ’90s, with only a few nods to the present; the “us” in the title seems to encompass the aesthetic under which the group operated as much as it refers to the individual members. (SOTC pal Rich Juzwiak gets more in-depth about the record at Gawker.)
Last night at S.O.B.’s, the New York-born trio paid homage to their past, present and future, serving up a brief set that pushed all the right buttons: soaring vocals, velvet harmonies, lyrics about longing and love. Clad in black and leopard print and effusively grateful to those in attendance—many of whom hung on every word of stone classics like “Weak” and “Right Here (Human Nature),” and who delighted in the Patti LaBelle cover that was thrown into the set—Cheryl “Coko” Clemons, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons put forth a thrillingly united front. There seemed to be a couple of backing vocals on tracks here and there, but they were used as more of a booster than a crutch; the women proved from note one that they didn’t need modern recording comforts in order to make their point well known. The set was almost too brief—half an hour if that, and that included banter between the women on stage and with the crowd. But they promised to return, and given the context—not to mention all the revelry and happiness that emanated from both sides of the stage—it would be foolish to not expect that to happen.
Critical bias: In the midst of a pretty remarkable run of remembering the ’90s. Feeling a little guilty, but not guilty enough to not thoroughly enjoy it.
Overheard: “It’s cute that you’re writing in a notebook.”
Random notebook dump: Just a lot of effusing about how good the show sounded.
All About You
Right Here (Human Nature)
I’m So Into You
If Only You Knew