Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Donell Jones, Where I Wanna Be

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.

However, for this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I wanted to focus on Jones’s sophomore album and arguably his magnum opus, 1999’s Where I Wanna Be. As the nineties were closing, R&B was still vital for the most part, and there was no real competition from male singers at the time. Jones’s label LaFace capitalized on the time frame by releasing Where I Wanna Be, shortly after Brian McKnight’s Back At One and a few weeks before Sisqó’s solo debut Unleash The Dragon.

For the first single, “U Know What’s Up,” Jones reunited with producers Eddie F and Darren Lighty, whom he worked with on his debut. The label made the intelligent choice to release two versions of the song, one without rap to pop radio stations and the remix with a Hot 16 from TLC’S Left Eye. A joyful bop song has relatable lyrics for anyone immediately attracted to someone who catches your eye while hanging out with friends.

The album’s titular track was the second single and would become the singer’s signature ballad. Now over the years, there have been many debates that try and paint Jones as a trashy individual. However, at age 41, I respect what Jones is crooning about. Jones is upfront and says he’d instead leave than cheat. He wants to find himself to be the best man for his lady.

Depending on the market you were in, the third single was either “Shorty (Got Her Eyes On Me)” or “This Luv .”Both songs were strong singles that effectively explored romance. The former finds Jones telling the object of his affection to shoot her shot, or he’s moving on to the next one. In comparison, the latter song finds Jones playfully telling a lady to take a chance on him.

The rest of the album finds Jones exploring the typical R&B tropes of the nineties with a natural flair. “Have You Seen Her,” “All Her Love,” and “It’s Alright” were strong album tracks. However, the two songs I kept on repeat upon purchasing the album were “Think About It (and “I Wanna Luv U). Both songs effectively evoke intimacy and can set a mood.

Overall, Where I Wanna Be still holds up twenty-three years later. The only misstep in the album is some of the sequencings toward the latter half. However, the songs are so strong in the quality we can give Mr. Jones a pass.

 

Final Grade: A-

Where I Wanna Be is available on all streaming platforms

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