Known primarily for his 1998 hit “You” from his sophomore album ‘Bout It,’ Jesse Powell is the true definition of an artist who never got his just due. Jesse debuted in 1996 with a self-titled album, which featured the singles “All I Need” and a cover of Enchantment’s Gloria. Two years later, Jesse released his second album ‘Bout It, and in 2001, Powell released his third album JP, which we will revisit for today’s Throwback Tuesday review.
It’s hard to understand why this album didn’t succeed. Usher & Sisqo were months away from releasing their big summer releases (8701 & Unleash the Dragon), and I can’t recall any other competition at the time in the spring of 2001. Furthermore, outside of the single releases, JP had some of the hottest producers at the time working on the album including Shep Crawford, who contributed a song (“I Didn’t Realize), while Tim & Bob provided two (“I’d Rather Be Alone” and “Can’t Take It”). JP had all of the makings for an urban adult contemporary record.
Released on March 27th of that year, JP opens with Randy Jackson (the American Idol judge not the sixth Jackson brother) produced “It’ll Take The World.” Written by former Phase II member Vincent Herbert, the ballad finds Jesse expressing his love for his significant other. The song gave Powell, whose voice has a four-octave range, showcases vocal gymnastics that were light years ahead of his fellow R&B singers at the time.
JP’s next track was the albums lead single “If I.” Produced and co-written by Underdogs member Damon Thomas (along with Jesse and his sister Tamara), “If I” was the quintessential apology song popular at the time. In a lesser singer’s hands, the song wouldn’t have aged well, but nineteen years later, it still holds up due to Powell’s voice. There’s a note that Powell hits at about three minutes and forty seconds into the song, which some modern-day singers will never achieve. If you’ve never seen the video, head over to YouTube and watch it immediately.
“I’m Leaving” features Powell’s sisters Trina and Tamara on the hook and is a great family collaboration. On this one, Powell sings about his leaving his current love. I can remember in my scriptwriting days, I used this song as an arc for one of my character’s and pictured the character and sisters singing the track to the character’s ex’s as they packed her bags and kicked her out for cheating.
As with every relationship where there’s love, you also have intimacy, and Powell succeeds on the bedroom ballads “Go upstairs” and “After We Make Love.” “Go Upstairs” finds Powell following R. Kelly’s formula of letting his lady know what he wants bluntly. On the flip side, the Fred Jerkins III produced “After We Make Love” is a mature Powell singing from an analytical standpoint of what happens when you explore a friend with benefits situation.
Powell closes the album with his cover of One Way’s 1980 classic “Something In The Past.” While One Way may not be primarily known to the masses, R&B fans hold “Something In The Past” in very high regard, and the passion that Powell brings to his version would make Al Hudson proud.
Outside of the up-tempo “I’d Rather Be Alone” and “Can’t Take It,” JP was a ballad-heavy album. Perhaps if the label would’ve released one of the fast songs mentioned earlier with a guest rapper verse, the album would’ve caught more traction. Ideally, consumers could’ve purchased the project from the strength of a single and then been blown away by Powell’s vocals.
Sadly the music world didn’t fully appreciate Powell’s talent, and he hasn’t released an album since 2003’s Jesse. Somewhat pigeonholed by the success of “You” from his ‘Bout It album, I don’t feel that audiences got the best of from Jesse Powell. JP is not only a reminder of the timelessness of R&B but serves as a testament to Jesse Powell’s talent.
Final Re-Listen Grade: B+
Stream worthy tracks: “It’ll Take The World,” “If I,” “I’m Leaving,” “Go Upstairs,” “Something In The Past.”