BACK II DA BASICS
The R&B singer Ginuwine turned 30 on Oct. 15. Not coincidentally, "Back II da Basics," G's just-released fifth CD, mostly sets aside faux-thuggish things and lays on a thick coating of grown-up romance. Gone are the Snoop Dogg cameo, the ill-fated "Gizzle" alter ego, and the lewd, graphic descriptions of sex from 2003's "The Senior." In their stead, "Basics" holds guest rappers Jadakiss and Knight to a PG-rated attitude, supplying merely naughty orgasmic coos and moans on the lead single, "When We Make Love," and devotes itself to a smooth but hard-sell exhibition of lover-man sensitivity.
The emblematic track on a Ginuwine disc has gone from the cutting-edge hook of an up-and-coming producer (like Timbaland's "Pony" on G's debut) to the flirtatiously suggestive ballad ("In Those Jeans" from "The Senior") to the catchy but gooey "Glaze in My Eyes," in which Ginuwine blames his "damn pride" for his inability to cry and thus become a "real man," finishing up with a flat-out apology to his beloved. The self-explanatory "Betta Half," "I'm in Love" and "Far Away" (so he's missing her) reinforce the never-stray mentality.
Without Ginuwine's sublime self-assurance and vocal elan, this tack would be disastrous, or at least veer toward the pathetic. But his dexterous phrasing on "Secrets," "Want U to Be" and "Far Away" transform them into the singer's equivalent of a soft-shoe routine. And if the sincerity of his ardor isn't legit as he pitches all this woo, he can act nearly as well as he sings. Toss in a dance track or two ("The Club" and the title song) and it appears that there will be a spot for G in the hearts -- if not always on the charts -- of many a lady during the decade Ginuwine leaves his youth behind.
-- Britt Robson