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Derrick Dunn

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

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