In November, singer Trey Songz released “Inevitable,” an EP meant to tease his fifth studio album, “Chapter V.” The project, released on his 27th birthday, contained the single “Sex Ain’t Better Than Love” — a lovely ballad that seemed to signal a big change for Tremaine Neverson. It looked as though, as he crept closer to 30, the shirtless wonder might be adopting a more buttoned-up persona.
Songz’s material has shown him to be a romantic guy who also enjoys a healthy sex life — one day his greatest hits package will include the songs “I Invented Sex” and “Neighbors Know My Name.” But to declare that sex is somehow inferior to or pointless without love threatened to upset the balance that has made Songz a superstar. His albums are always a perfect mix of sex songs and love songs, and the singer has wisely stayed away from choosing sides in that eternal battle between the physical and emotional.
Now that “Chapter V” has landed, it’s clear that “Sex Ain’t Better Than Love” was a one-off — Songz is back with his signature blend of soft-core imagery and sweet nothings. In fact, “Chapter V” highlights Songz’s unique role in R&B: He bridges the gap between sexless boy bands and unromantic raunchy singers, between young guys who sing shallow songs about strip clubs and old guys who sing heavy songs about their divorces.
Only Songz could release an album that includes a song like “Dive In,” a slow jam that compares a woman’s body to a pool and contains more talk of stroke than Olympic swimming commentary, and “Without A Woman,” a ’70s soul-inspired track on which Songz earnestly sings that “a man can’t be a man without a woman” — and knock them both out of the park.
Anyone familiar with Songz knows that when he’s not romancing or dropping his pants, you can find him in the club. His R&B/rap collaborations are legendary, and “Chapter V” has even more party-minded tracks with rap features than his previous albums. “2 Reasons” with T.I., “Don’t Be Scared” featuring Rick Ross, and “Check Me Out” with Meek Mill and Diddy are solid, although none reach the level of the Nicki Minaj duet “Bottoms Up” from 2010’s “Passion, Pain & Pleasure” or the Fabolous collaboration “Say Ahh” from 2009’s “Ready.” Songz also collaborates with himself on “Playin’ Hard,” where he sings, raps and even speaks a little Spanish.
Songz knows man cannot live on sex, love and VIP-section fun alone, so “Chapter V” introduces a fourth element into the singer’s thematic repertoire — football. “Hail Mary” with Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy compares loving a woman to a long-shot football pass, and on “Fumble,” Songz regrettably drops the ball on a strong relationship. Both tracks surprising land perfectly — the only thing more impressive than watching Songz juggle sex and love is watching him juggle sex, love and sports.
Godfrey is a freelance writer.
“Dive In,” “Without A Woman,” “Playin’ Hard,” “Fumble”