Inner vision

A Detroit balladeer who arranges and produces his own material

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When it comes to consistency within the male contemporary R&B realm, perhaps nobody delivers steady grooves as regularly as hometown crooner Dwele. The 32-year-old Grammy-nominated singer has a way of merging soul, jazzy production and hip hop better than almost anyone, which is why such artists as Kanye West and Slum Village continuously knock on his door for their own projects. So it's no surprise that on Dwele's fourth studio album, W.ants W.orld W.omen, released this week, you'll hear a lot of the sonic texturing that's always endeared him to America's (dare I say) "grown and sexy" crowd. But similar to the way that highly overused term is not always accurate, neither is labeling Dwele's music neo-soul. It's essentially new-school R&B with an old-school approach. The album's lead single, "What's Not to Love," is soaked in buttery vocals and Raphael Saadiq-style production, making it a) near flawless and b) perhaps Dwele's first tune strong enough to rival his 2003 jam "Find a Way." "Dodging Your Phone," featuring David Banner, is another instant fave where Dwele's love-crooning is paired with hip-hop lyrics and it works. But things get murky along the way; a good chunk of the songs merely maintain a solid groove and are well-sung, but don't really go anywhere. If the album suffers from anything, it's a lack of brevity. At 17 tracks (interludes included) the disc could've been a few songs shorter and left a stronger impact. But the gems here — such as "I Wish," "Grown," and "Detroit Sunrise" (featuring Monica Blaire) — show those flashes of brilliance where Dwele's vocals and multi-instrumentalism shine brightest. Considering that Dwele recorded much of the music on W.ants W.orld W.omen himself, he's singing and playing in the spirit of Stevie Wonder, producing and arranging material in ways that recall Smokey Robinson, continuing the embodiment of what it means to be a Detroit balladeer.

Jonathan Cunningham writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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