Donell Jones had already made a name for himself, writing for the likes of Usher, Jade, and Madonna, when his debut album My Heart hit stores in the summer of 1996. Jones’s debut featured the hit singles “In The Hood,” “You Should Know,” and his cover of the timeless Stevie Wonder classic “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Furthermore, two of the album tracks, the slow jams “No Interruptions” and “I Want You To Know,” are better songs than some folk’s entire discographies that entered the music game in the last twenty years.
Second Listen Sunday : Carl Thomas, Emotional
Bad Boy Records already had three established R&B acts during their late nineties dominance. There was a female trio (Total), a four-man group (112), and a sultry songstress (Faith Evans). The only thing missing was a male R&B singer, so it was no surprise that after seeing a gentleman named Carl Thomas performing at open mic night, Diddy quickly signed him to a record deal.
Thomas wasted no time in building a name for himself, making an appearance on The Notorious BIG’s “The World Is Filled” in the spring of 1997. However, Stevie J produced the remix of Puff Daddy’s “Been around the World” that fully introduced Thomas to the world. The “Been around the World” remix is still a bop twenty-three years later.
Thomas also lent his vocals to other Bad Boy releases, including The Lox’s “Let’s Start Rap Over” and Black Rob’s “Jasmine” before gearing up for the release of his solo debut Emotional in the spring of 2000. Unofficially, the album’s first single was “Summer Rain,” and while it was a sleeper hit, that particular song gained traction after Thomas’s most well-known single.
For the album’s first single, “I Wish,” Thomas collaborated with producer Mike City. Together, the duo cooked up a classic first single of a love that can never come to fruition. Thomas crooning over being in love with another man’s wife hits as I’m sure many of us have experienced the situation.
After the success of “I Wish,” Thomas and the Bad Boy team circled back to “Summer Rain.” It was surprising that the Bad Boy team pushed “Summer Rain” in the winter of 1999, as the song’s title should sell itself. The late great Heavy D lent his production skills to the song, which also contains an interpolation of “Summer Soft” by Stevie Wonder.
The album’s title track was the final single. Emotional contains samples and interpolations of “Shape of My Heart” by Sting and features singing over lush arrangements about a relationship coming to its conclusion. Kudos to whoever sequenced this album, as “Emotional” is the song right before “I Wish.” Thomas was twenty-seven years old when his debut arrived in stores, and one of the most surprising things about Emotional is that the album catered to a more mature audience.
Sans six instances, Emotional is devoid of the sampling that is Bad Boy Records signature. Instead, the few samples that do appear are from soulful acts such as Isaac Hayes and Roberta Flack. Diddy made the right choice to market Thomas as an Urban Artist instead of going after a Pop audience. Thomas finds his footing in the slow jams “Giving You All My Love,” “Lady Lay Your Body,” “Supastar,” and the album’s closer “Special Lady.”
If Thomas cut the album down by a few songs, he would have a truly stellar debut. Minus the four interludes, Emotional has seventeen songs. While Thomas has a capable voice, a few of these could’ve made soundtrack or mixtape appearances. Nevertheless, Emotional is still an impressive debut.
Final Grade: B+
Top Songs: “Giving You All My Love,” “Lady Lay Your Body,” “Supastar” and “Special Lady”
Emotional is available on all streaming platforms
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