There was a singer who shall remain nameless set the tone for the nineties slow jams. However as nineties R&B fans know there were tons of singers who provided quality albums and tracks when it came to making a playlist via audiocassette. Lincoln Browder, better known as Link, was one of the singers.
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.
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