Jesse Powell, Jesse
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Jesse Powell, Jesse

As we continue to pay tribute to the musical career of Jesse Powell for this week’s Second Listen Sunday, let’s revisit the singer’s fourth and final album, 2003’s Jesse. Powell’s fourth album arrived in stores on October 14, 2003, in a joint venture between D3 Entertainment, Monopoly Music, and Riviera Records. At the time, I was in Air Force Basic Training, so I don’t know if there was any real promotion for Powell’s senior disc.

I didn’t even know Powell had a new album out until early December. Basic trainees at Lackland Air Force Base can take a break from training during the holiday season and do a little holiday shopping at the Army and Air Force Exchange Services with the annual Shop-A-Trainee Program. Naturally, as a music head, I took that time to stock up on CDs I missed while in training. In addition to grabbing the latest releases from Outkast, 112, Jagged Edge, G-Unit, and Jay-Z, I also picked Jesse’s latest album.

Unfortunately, I would have to wait a few more weeks until graduation to hear the album, as CDs were considered contraband. Thankfully I had a supportive mother who knew music was therapy for me and brought my portable CD player and the purchased music to my graduation. The first time I was able to Jesse was during tech school, and when I made my way to my first duty assignment at RAF Lakenheath, I always included some of the slow jams from the albums on my legendary mix CDs.

As Powell was no longer on a major label, he didn’t have the chance to work with big-name producers as he had in the past. Thankfully up and coming producers, The Co-Stars, recognized Powell’s vocal skill and provided him with the first three tracks. “Touching It Tonight” and “Talking in Your Sleep” are both Powell’s attempts at club bangers. Both songs sound just fine, and given Powell’s writing credit on the song, I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t sell them to a pop artist, as it may have gained more traction.

Thankfully Powell delivers a beautiful ballad on the album’s third track, “Keep On Loving.” The beauty of the song is its simplicity. On the one hand, Powell doesn’t do any vocal acrobatics on the song or go into his four vocal octave range. “Keep On Loving.” isn’t even Powell at his best, but it still slays HITS that rule the airwaves now.

The balladry continues with “Lady” and “By The Way, “where Powell elegantly pays homage to the object of his affection. Next is “Did You Cry,” where Powell calls out the same lady he just paid homage to in the previous two songs. It’s an odd placement for the song, but Powell delivers another quality vocal.

“Come Back Home” is a piano-driven ballad about trying to get your girl back. While “Ebony,” which reunites Powell with long-time producer Carl Roland is a song that I always found as a spiritual successor to Dru Hill’s “Beauty.” Powell’s sister Trina joins him to co-write “I Will, ” a song about struggle love. Finally, “I Want You” is a vast departure from Powell’s earlier material. While there’s no appearance from a rapper or auto-tune, it’s just a song I would feel would’ve worked better in a Tyler Perry-style musical that were popular at the time.

Powell also delivers two quality covers on the album. The first is Debarge’s “I Like It,” and the second is Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” which he does justice to. For reasons unknown, Powell took a hiatus from the music industry after Jesse. The effort isn’t as strong as his previous releases. However, it is a better project than some singers who shall remain nameless releasing projects in 2022 with a much bigger budget. Undoubtedly Unsung, Powell is a singer the industry should’ve done more with. I can only imagine the magic he would have delivered given a chance to work with Diane Warren, Ne-Yo or Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

Nevertheless, while Powell was called home by GOD, we can take solace in knowing his music lives on.

Final Grade: B

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