Ledisi: Pieces of Me

Posted July 8, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Sultry R&B singer gets a little more saucier, little more inspirational with her R&B

With a voice as big and eccentric as Chaka and with three albums under her arms, Oakland singer Ledisi Young is still considered an underground R&B girl wonder. She should be the next best thing since Mary J. Blige, but hit songs aren’t available to her as they should be, as if she’s not hip to being cool. Rather than going for explosive Whitney-esque material or big ballads with substance, she normally opts for smooth, underdeveloped inspirational numbers. Certainly her aspirations may lead her to an eventual full-length gospel album, where she feels most at home as proven on her holiday LP It’s Christmas, but Verve is still giving her a chance to become as competitive and enormous as Keyshia Cole or Jennifer Hudson.

One thing’s for certain, Pieces of Me, Ledisi’s fourth Verve release, is a long way’s from her debut and a major improvement over her disappointing third record Turn Me Loose. She comforts more of her more intimate, romantic side on juicy slow jams like the delicious standout “So Into You” and the Jaheim-supported “Stay Together.” Ledisi sweats her hardest on slow-burning blues ballads like “Hate Me,” where she eats the song up like a Stax-seasoned steak cooked by Leela James.

While being suspended in midair with a familiar Patti LaBelle melody, the album’s title cut allows us a quick close-up of transparency of Ledisi’s insecurities and inner struggles. But with an album title alluring the ear’s into her most intimate and private matters to the effect of Usher’s Confessions, Pieces of Me is overly decorated with Ledisi’s aspiring dreams of being a gospel singer. Sure she’s jazzy in an Ella kind of way and heavy with Aretha dramatics, but her love for inspirational ditties and Hallmark movie anthems seems to get in the way of what was originally meant to be a personal album. “Shine” uses a blend of old-school R&B and Karen Clark-Sheard urban gospel, along with the mystery of BeBe & CeCe Winans’ crossover ambiguity. “Raise Up,” using a gutsier Roots-sounding instrumentation, follows in the same path. The Mary J-sounding “Bravo,” possibly the album’s next single, is another obvious head-lifter, but does a better job at addressing a broader audience outside the four walls of the church. But the over-abundance of inspiration, continuing with “BGTY (Be Good to Yourself),” quenches all the love-making of the album, making it even more difficult to view Ledisi as a 21st century descendent of an Anita or Phyllis Hyman. Recording a gospel album, where she truly belongs, has to be somewhere in her near future.




  • Release Date: 14 June 2011
  • Label: Verve Forecast
  • Producers: Rex Rideout, Ivan Barias, Carvin Haggins, Salaam Remi, Mike City, Chuck Harmony
  • Spin This: “So Into You,” “Hate Me”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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