It’s been 16 years since Taalib Johnson first emerged as Musiq Soulchild. 16 years in which the shape and form of R&B has morphed into something hardly recognisable from that time, a place where Zayn Malik is probably a more accurate representation of the genre than, say, Usher.
Spinning Life On Earth is a curious little event, then. What’s the line between something sounding timeless or outdated? Whatever it is, Johnson seems to blur it quite consistently on this new record. Take the first two tracks for example: Wait A Minute is a sweltering assault, sounding fresh with its hip-hop, siren-backed flow mixing effortlessly with Johnson’s verve. And then Who Really Loves You is a plodding, exhausted drain of a song with its chorus refrain the sort of thing that should happily be consigned to the Dru Hill bin of R&B.
It wouldn’t be so bad if that balance remained throughout, but Johnson fudges it with the indulgent sludge of balladry. Heart Away is the last track that has some life to it, before a spate of over-sung and flaccid slow-jams sink this into another “girl I need you” type of affair. This stuff may have flown over ten years ago, but if you’re going to call your album Life On Earth you should probably be in tune with what’s actually happening on it.