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: Houston, It’s Already Written
It’s no secret that Usher became a global icon in 2004 when he released his fourth album, Confessions. However, as the good folks over at YouKnowIGotSoul.com, world-class remixer DJ Soulchild, and, of course, my big but Edward Bowser will tell you, there are a few other singers that dropped albums as well. Some of the singers would drop one album and fade into R&B obscurity. This week’s pick for Second Listen Sunday is one such singer, Houston, and his debut album, It’s Already Written.
Before diving into the review, I know about the 2005 London hotel room incident. I lived in the United Kingdom and heard about it on a local radio station. Like many others, my first introduction to Houston was through his popular single “I Like That,” which featured Chingy, Nate Dogg, and I-20. Houston quickly gained fame, with his lead single becoming so popular that he landed endorsement deals with McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
“I Like That” is an R&B song that showcases the production talent of The Trak Starz and features multiple writers. The song revolves around the theme of lust, which was common during that time. The record label made a smart decision by collaborating Houston with Chingy, who was still a hot property following his debut a year earlier. The legendary Nate Dogg and I-20, who was gaining popularity as a member of DTP, also contributed to the song’s success. “I Like That” became ubiquitous in 2004 and was such a massive hit that replicating its success seemed almost impossible.
This theory was validated when Houston’s second single, “Ain’t Nothing Wrong,” failed to catch on. Linking up with in-demand producers The Underdogs, Houston crafted a fire slow jam that would have become more of a hit if a more popular singer had the song. While “Ain’t Nothing Wrong” is my favorite song on the album, it was a bad pick for the second single, and for reasons unknown, Houston didn’t release a third single.
In retrospect, Houston’s label would have been wise to release “Alright” as the second single in 2004. Jazze Pha’s production expertise perfectly suited the song for club play. As for the ideal third single, “Keep it on the Low” had a dancehall vibe that could have expanded Houston’s fan base internationally. The rest of It’s Already Written album falls into the expected R&B style of the era.
The album features a mix of tracks, including a duet with Letoya Luckett on “My Promise,” a cover of “Love You Down” that is considered average, and typical R&B themes such as the beauty of a woman in “She Is,” clinginess in “Bye Bye Love,” and addressing family issues from the past in “Didn’t Give A Damn.”
Houston was far from a top-tier vocalist. However, his debut and, to date, only album showed he had the potential to appeal to mainstream radio while still offering decent tracks for the R&B crowd.
Final Grade: B-
It’s Already Written is available on all streaming platforms
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.