Perhaps emboldened by the void left when Robert Kelly temporarily cleaned up his act, more than a few R&B singers over the age of 30 are making uncharacteristically sexual music right now. The offerings run the gamut, from singer Brian McKnight’s unfortunate foray into unprintable lyrics to the sublime “Obey,” a track on Detroit soul singer Dwele’s new album, “Greater Than One.”
The title of the track is a clue to the subject matter, which is explored over alternating orchestral strings and whiny synths. Think “Fifty Shades of Grey” set to music, with better writing. The piece is a switch for Dwele — it’s easily his most sexually explicit track to date — but that isn’t the only change apparent on his latest effort.
Throughout “Greater Than One,” Dwele gives shouts-out to “’80s babies,” and seems to be talking to those reared on the music of the decade rather than born in it. The laid-back new school soul sound for which he is known takes a back seat here to the influence of Prince and Reagan-era Stevie Wonder. Uptempo tracks outnumber slow jams; there is more funky, less smooth. On “Patrick Ronald,” which is Dwele’s formal name for Patron, he sings about tossing back tequila. “Going Leaving,” on which Dwele debates staying in a relationship, could be soft and pensive, but instead, the instrumentation recalls everything from Shalamar to Rick James.
The horns, lush vocals and complicated romances that defined Dwele’s early albums are still around, though: “What Profit,” about a man leaving/losing his woman once he becomes successful and the straightforward, no-frills love song “Special” are textbook Dwele — less sticky, more sweet.
“Obey,” “What Profit,” “Patrick Ronald”