For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday: Ginuwine, The Life
R&B singer Ginuwine took a different approach with his music when his third album, The Life, arrived in 2001. One of the first things that immediately surprised fans was that super-producer Timbaland’s production was scarce on the album, as he only produced one track on it.
Ginuwine decided to work with notable producers such as Troy Oliver, Raphael Saadiq, and Cory Rooney for his junior album. The first single from The Life was “There It Is,” which finds Ginuwine shedding away his loverman persona and calling out an ungrateful woman. The song’s narrative describes how he works hard and pays the bills to provide a lifestyle for his live-in lover, who does not have a job, and she does not show appreciation for what he does.
I found the angle to be a good setup for his album, and if Ginuwine was trying to get out of Timberland’s shadow, this was the perfect song. For the album’s second single, Ginuwine returned to balladry with what some consider his signature song, “Differences.” My first time hearing “Differences” was on a rainy Tuesday, and I must have played the song at least five or six times back to back.
Ginuwine wrote the track with producer Troy Oliver. According to Ginuwine, “Differences” was written when he was going through a depressed state. Both of his parents passed less than a year apart. He was writing numerous songs but decided to write a song about his then-wife. It just so happened to become a song that people wanted to sing to their spouses when getting married.
Given the success of “Differences,” which was also a huge pop hit, Ginuwine’s label decided to go with “Just Because” for the third single. Unless it is the After Hours remix, “Just Because” is one of the weaker songs on the album, and I understand why the singer hates it. For the album’s final single, Ginuwine decided to go with “Tribute to a Woman.”
“Tribute to a Woman” put the singer back on track and was a great ballad paying homage to women. To this day, I will never understand why the label did not do a tour/contest promotion for this song, where Ginuwine would serenade the winner. The rest of The Life is typical R&B of the time. “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Show after the Show,” “So Fine,” and the Raphael Saadiq produced “2 Way” are solid up-tempo tracks.
To my surprise though, the sole Timberland-produced track “That’s How I Get Down” (featuring Ludacris) does not gel with the rest of the album. Honestly, I think the beat would have been better for Luda’s third solo album, Word of Mouf, with Ginuwine on the hook. The album’s real strength is in the ballads, particularly the four-song run of tracks eleven through fifteen.
“Role Play” is a bedroom track that sets the mood while avoiding corniness. “Open Arms” and the Diane Warren written “Superhuman” are two of the most potent vocals in Ginuwine’s catalog. The final ballad on the album is “Two Reasons I Cry,” which pays homage to his late parents.
Overall The Life is a strong album that still holds up. I still have some issues with the sequencing, however. “Two Reasons I Cry” should have been the final song instead of “Just Because.” While “Just Because” should have been cut or placed more towards the front for a more cohesive flow.
Nevertheless, as my good friend Edward Bowser over at SoulInStero.com said when he ranked Ginuwine’s catalog, The Life often lacks the love it deserves.
The Life is available on all streaming platforms
Final Grade: A-
Top Tracks: The singles (sans “Just Because”) “Differences,” “Open Arms,” “Superhuman,” and “Role Play.”
For Soul In Stereo’s Ranking Of Ginuwine’s catalog, click here: Ranking the Best Ginuwine Albums | Soul In Stereo
In addition, if you were ever curious why Ginuwine never says the song title in “Differences,” click here for my interview with prouder Troy Oliver.
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.