Trey Songz, ‘Chapter V’ – Extended Album Analysis

Trey Songz, Chapter V © Atlantic

Usually when writing a review, I find myself having to limit words and ‘analysis’ of that album.  I tend to write the way I talk, which means I ultimately am very talkative and opinionated – in the kindest way :-).  Since I was fortunate like so many fans to preview Trey Songz‘s newest offering Chapter V (due August 21 via Atlantic Records), I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to write a more in depth analysis/review.  A shorter version will likely make its way to my amazon page or some other site, but the blog format allows for me to ‘dig in’ more here – well and of course no censorship, LOL. So here it goes!

R&B singer Trey Songz releases his fifth studio effort, 2012’s Chapter V, following up 2010’s Passion, Pain & Pleasure.  The artist, who famously proclaims in his song “Unusual” “they say all I talk about is sex,” does just that on the sensual and sometimes salacious Chapter V, another R. Kelly inspired, ‘panty-dropping’ affair. While Songz doesn’t tread too far from the stylistic settings of 2009’s breakout Ready (“Say Aah,” “Successful”) or ’10’s Passion, Pain & Pleasure (“Bottoms Up,” “Can’t Be Friends”), he manages to make the sensual sound as compelling and risqué as ever, making the latest installment of ‘Trigga’ solid and enjoyable.

The intro, titled “Chapter V” sets the tone of the effort with mysterious synths, not unlike the synths that characterize “Top Of The World” from 2011’s 5-song EP Inevitable. The “Neighbors Know My Name” styled “Dive In” starts the effort in superb urban fashion with a slow tempo and highly sensual sound. There is little to trivialize here save for the fact Songz sticks with his signature formula, say without changing up anything. It is a standout, nonetheless.

The obligatory ‘panty dropper’ cut proceeds in the salacious “Panty Wetter” in which Songz asserts “…You ain’t gotta take them off/just pull ’em to the side…” R. Kelly is etched throughout this track given Songz’s vocal styling and the edginess of the cut. Dramatic and risqué without going ‘over the edge’ or becoming ‘hedonistic,’ Trey doesn’t tread in too controversial waters.

“Heart Attack,” the promo single co-written by Rico Love, is a highlight as expected.  The drums are gargantuan and the electronic sounds are solid without conceding to Euro-/techno-infused pop.  Songz pours out his heart on the emotive chorus: “In too deep, can’t think about giving it up/but I never knew, love would feel like a heart attack/It’s killing me, swear I never cried so much/cause I never knew love would hurt this f*ckin’ bad/the worst pain I ever had…” Well produced and performed, “Heart Attack” is top-notch.

“Playin Hard” is a bit of an anomaly as Songz both raps and sings.  It is a bit off-putting upon an initial listen, but give it a couple of spins and the magic shines.  Mysterious production provides a nice palette for Songz’s artistry, be it rapping or crooning at any given moment.  It doesn’t eclipse “Dive In” or “Heart Attack” per se, but it is different from previous Songz releases.

“2 Reasons” is the obligatory “Bottoms Up” remake, though not as well conceived.  The tempo is incredibly quick and Songz’s vocals gimmicky. The production is solid, with the club sensibility clearly conveyed.  T.I.’s guest verse is hard to decipher, but it can’t be anymore corny than the Trey’s sung portions: “I only came for the ladies and the drinks…baby get ya glass up… baby get ya ass up…” Yep, that’s about the size of “2 Reasons,” though you only need one to skip it – corniness.

“Hail Mary” lays much better, opting for a hardcore sound and medium tempo.  Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne assists on the first and third verses respectively.  Songz handles the hook as well as the second verse. Catchy and enjoyable, “Hail Mary” works well. Since Songz is in a rapper mood, he adds the ‘Teflon Don’ himself (Rick Ross) on “Don’t Be Scared,” another solid track.   One might not venture to call the cut Ross’s best showing, but he holds it down.

“Pretty Girls Lie” outclasses many of the expected triumphs of Chapter V. Using a distorted piano and a somewhat more subtle approach than the more overt cuts, “Pretty Girls Lie” gives Songz a different sound than we have heard over the course of his five albums.  The closest bridge might be Songz’s Grammy nominated hit from the underrated Trey Day album “Can’t Help But Wait,” but this cut is different.  “Pretty girls lie/lipstick in her smile/make you want to believe/but pretty girls lie/pain so deep inside/she can’t even see/pretty girls lie…” Songz sings so emotionally on the refrain.  Add an unexpected but successful key change and Songz delivers a solid musical moment from Chapter V.

“Bad Decisions” is track that seems best suited for Drake given the emo- sort of stoner-R&B sound. Songz sells it well, but the quibble would be that despite the excellent demarcation of form (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) that the song ‘sits’ too long.  Despite the fact that Trey provides vocal nuances and ad libs, there is an element of ‘static’ exhibited here.

“Forever Yours” is slightly better, if for no other reason than it provides Songz to talk about underwear once more: “I bet her panties on the floor now…” As always, Songz sounds solid and the vocal production surrounding his voice is great.  The use of synths and electronic sensibility is good and not overdone as on Chris Brown’s disastrous Fortune.  A sexual interlude, “Inside Interlewd”  (notice the spelling folks) proceeds, with archetypical lush, lazy, and well sensual sounds.

“Fumble” provides another football reference (earlier it was “Hail Mary”) and much like the earlier outing, Songz sells it well. The tempo is slow and Songz’s vocals crystal clear.  Full of excellent nuance and emotion, “Fumble” is the type of cut that Songz does best.  Followed up by another fine cut in “Without A Woman,” there is soulfulness exhibited here that hearkens on classic.  He definitely confirms paternity – he must be R. Kelly’s son as much as the similarities show on “Without A Woman.” Just sayin’.

Interlude4u” proceeds and is followed by “Simply Amazing,” which is a bit ‘overconfident’ judging by its title. It is the obligatory pop-rock crossover that graces every Trey Songz album. It is ok, but not as great as some of the ‘gems’ on this effort.  Penultimate cut “Never Again,” sampling Curtis Mayfield, is better, though not ‘the second coming.’  Closer “Check Me Out” is co-written by “Lights Down Low” singer Bei Maejor, and features the ubiquitous Meek Mill and the ‘honorable’ Diddy.  Given its clubby sound, “Check Me Out” is appropriately placed as the closer and arguably the brightest spot of the trio of songs at the end of the effort.

Overall, Chapter V is another solid Trey Songz album.  What is positive in the big scheme of R&B is that Songz does not try to crossover into dance-pop or techno-infused styles.  There are electronic sounds, but they are clearly within the R&B idiom.  This is not the best R&B album of the year (that honor goes to Frank Ocean’s channel Orange), but Songz definitely knows how to make a solid, enjoyable listen.

Top Tier Songs: “Pretty Girls Lie,” “Dive In,” “Heart Attack,” “Hail Mary”

Second Tier Songs: “Playin’ Hard,” “Fumble,” “Without A Woman”


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