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: Sisqo
In the summer of 2001, R&B was still going strong. Usher was preparing to release his third solo album, Jon B.’s underrated Pleasures U Like, had hit stores in the spring, and the genre’s current superstar Sisqó was due to release his sophmore project, Return Of Dragon. Fueled by the success of the singles “Incomplete” and “Thong Song,” Sisqó’s solo debut, Unleash the Dragon, would sell five million copies in the US alone.
The album’s success saw the platinum-haired singer earn a co-starring role in the teen comedy Get Over It and serve as the opening act for NSYNC’s No Strings Attached tour. Argumentatively, Sisqó was a full-fledged pop star who put the planned Dru Hill reunion tour on the back burner.
“Can I Live,” the first single from Return of Dragon, found the singer linking up with Teddy Riley for an attempted club banger. The lyrics in the song convey a message about freedom and privacy in relationships. Riley’s production skills gave the song some umph, but when I first heard the song back in 2001, Sisqó’s vocals seemed forced. The guest appearances from his then-artists, The Associates and Luvher, didn’t do much to help the song.
On the one hand, I understand that Sisqó was attempting to give his signee’s show shine, but it was a puzzling move. Given his celebrity at the time, it’s perplexing that his parent label, Def Jam, didn’t add one of his labelmates, like Jay-Z, Ja Rule, or DMX, to the track for more radio play.
The second single was the up-tempo “Dance For Me,” which found the singer using the production talents of One Up Entertainment. Sisqó sings with a brash bravado and corny pillow talk, asking a young lady to dance for him. The music video for the song came across as the hood version of a Sonic video game. I still feel like with this song, Sisqó was attempting to recreate the success of “Thong Song,” but it just doesn’t work.
Initially, “Dream” featuring Chinky of Lovher was planned as the album’s third single The album’s big ballad is Sisqó in top form vocally. R&B giant Warryn Campbell wrote and produced the song, which I would have pushed as a quiet storm radio single or a soundtrack song for a summer blockbuster.
The other song I liked on the project was “Close Your Eyes,” with the signature Dru Hill slow jam sound. While the song is a textbook R&B apology ditty, Sisqó sings the lyrics unabashedly. Sisqó even harks back to the R&B style of including an interlude to set up the song. The rest of the album is, unfortunately, full of misses.
I’m a slow jam cat, so I assumed that titles like “Infatuated” and “Last Night” were the mood Sisqó would shoot for. Instead, they are forgettable album tracks. Furthermore, despite the lush harmonies, even the Dru Hill reunion “Without You” is somewhat of a letdown. Whether it was a miscommunication with the label over the direction or his ego, Sisqó’s sophomore album is still one of the biggest blunders of early 21st-century R&B.
Looking back at how huge he was then, I often wonder why the label didn’t link him with big guns such as Jam & Lewis, The Neptunes, or Babyface. Even if Sisqó wanted to chase mainstream money, all the producers mentioned could’ve given songs that would have crossed over to the Pop charts without alienating his R&B fanbase.
Final Grade: C-
Return Of The Dragon 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.