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 : Omarion , 21
In early 2005, former B2K front man Omarion enjoyed a US Billboard number one debut and eventually a gold-selling album with his first solo album, O. Omarion’s debut featured three hit singles, and he could have easily gone on tour for the album for at least another year. Chris Brown was still months away from breaking into the industry, so the lane was there for Omarion. However, Omarion chose to begin work on his second solo album, 21, which arrived in stores the day after Christmas in 2006.
At the time, I was twenty-five, serving in the United States Air Force and deployed to Qatar. During my time in the desert, music was a form of therapy, and I had a lot of time to digest music. To my surprise, 21 was available in the local exchange the day it was released. I picked the album up and went in with an open mind. I remember being underwhelmed by the album as a complete project on my first listen, so I recently decided to give it a relisten.
21 opens with its lead single, “Entourage.” Omarion released “Entourage” in the summer of 2006, and the song failed to catch on. I remember my attempts to work “Entourage” into my DJ set, but the song just did not catch on with the crowds. Omarion wrote the song with Andre Merritt, and Eric Hudson, with Hudson also handling production. “Entourage” was a typical song about an entertainer trying to woo a woman, and Hudson’s production was top-notch. Therefore, I never understood why the song had not caught on, as I felt it was a good comeback single and a fabulous summertime song.
With an underwhelming response to the first single, Omarion went to the big guns for his second single, “Ice Box.” Released on Halloween, “Ice Box” was the first produced song from The Royal Court, a music production team formed by producer Timbaland and Solomon “King” Logan. A mid-tempo song featuring background vocal from Timbaland, that takes its influence from a romantic relationship between Omarion and his girlfriend that had come to an end.
Omarion sings the song with an honest passion set to great production, and it is easy to see why the song is his biggest solo hit to date. The first two songs on Omarion’s sophomore album were also the first two singles. Now, when an artist puts the singles first, it can go one of two ways; either the rest of the album is full of classic material and heat, or it is not very impressive at all. Omarion falls somewhere in between.
Things start out decent with another Eric Hudson collaboration in “Electric,” then Bryan Michael Cox wrote the slow cut “Made for Tv,” and the Neptunes produced “Obsession.” Omarion also reunites with The Underdogs for “Just That Sexy” and “Midnight” to only so-so results. Hearing the album at age 40, I think the big issue with 21 is that Omarion attempts to go places vocally that he has no business traveling to from a vocal standpoint.
Despite the best efforts of the producers, Omarion’s limited vocal capabilities show up, as he attempts Michael Jackson riffs that come across forced. The songs mentioned above would have been hits in the hands of another artist, but Omarion does not have the register to pull off what the songs require. “Beg For It,” “Do It,” “What Are We Doing,” and “The Truth” are some of the worst songs in the singer’s catalog. The only song worth mentioning on the second half album is “Been With A Star.”
Had Omarion taken the same approach on his sophomore album as he did with his debut, perhaps he would still have a prevalent career in 2021. 21 is not a total misfire, but it does destroy all the promise he showed on his first album.
Initial Listen Grade: D+
Re-Listen Grade: C-
Top Tracks : “Ice Box”, “Entourage” and “Electric”
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