Alice Smith⎟ She⎟ Rainwater⎟ US Release Date: March 19, 2013
Alice Smith will be considered ‘new’ to most of the world. That said, the indie R&B singer has previously been nominated for a Grammy (Best Urban/Alternative Performance, “Dream”) as well as released her debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me back in 2006. Seven years later, Smith, formerly signed to Epic, arrives with She, released independently via Rainwater. Too often, indie-R&B albums do not reach their maximum quality potential. Too many times R&B artists who have been on a major label and fallen by the wayside to the indie world also see the quality of their releases fall. For Smith, she embraces indie-R&B to the upmost. She, in all honesty, is easily one of the best R&B albums of 2013. Let’s take it a step further – it’s one of the best albums of 2013, regardless of genre.
“Cabaret Preview” cleverly finds Smith singing the first verse of the proceeding “Cabaret” a cappella with jazzy nuance (“Where are you going with your life? What kind of chances will you take…”) . She picks up on the full track, which proves to be an electrifying opener contrasting the R&B multitude of 2013. “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…”, she sings catchily and dynamically on the chorus. Well produced and written (Smith co-writes with Rebecca Jordan and Reginald Perry), “Cabaret” is a hit from a first listen.
“Ocean” continues consistently and enjoyably, sporting more of singer/songwriter feel to it. Driven by a percussive groove comprised of shakers and tambourines to match up with rhythmic guitar and electric piano, the indie/alt vibe is in full, creative fruition. Hip for alternative fans and R&B lovers alike, “Ocean” is thoughtfully conceived. “What can I do to make you understand? You seem to me to be a hell of a man…” Smith asserts, later telling her love “…I had a dream you were the ocean / my love, and you bathe me in devotion…” On the exceptional “Another Love”, Smith continues to command vocally, supported by backing vocals, which further accentuate the spirited emotions. “Another Love” is fine balance of indie- and neo-soul.
“The One” keeps things flowing exceptionally without a rub, while “Shot” finds Smith playfully attacking the lyrics. “No conversation, just fornication / No indication when he stepped out he will get shot…”, Smith memorably sings on the first verse. She confirms the ‘shot’ isn’t literal in a violent sense on the chorus: “Shot in the heart, shot, shot / he didn’t know he will get shot / shot in the heart, shot, shot, shot in the heart.” Over an extended vamp at the end, Smith sounds relaxed and polished. On the old-school, vintage soul “Loyalty”, Smith tells her man “Don’t take for granted my loyalty / don’t be so shady / we were friends, alright/ just moving down the line boy / You turned on me, was it jealousy?” Well written, lyrically and harmonically, “Loyalty” is the seventh consecutive upstanding track from She.
“With You” may not shine as brightly as elites like “Cabaret” per say, but it also never hangs it head nor feels like ‘filler’ – it still rocks! It’s merely the victim being inserted in between juggernauts “Loyalty” and a fiery cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fool For You”. How good is “Fool For You”? I’m sure Cee Lo would give Smith a standing O. Really! To sweeten things, she follows up “Fool For You” with another thriller, “Be Easy”, in which Smith delivers one of the most sensual songs of She (“Turn me on, turn me over, turn me all around / I can do a show now, I can make it easy / You don’t have to be so hard, we don’t have to go there / If it is what it’s gonna be, we don’t have to rush…”). Smith closes out her tour de force with power on title track “She”. Big, gritty, and bold, “She” epitomizes what this album is all about.
What more is there to say? She is brilliant – Smith included! Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is at her best here. Magnificent vocals with magnificent songwriting and production work to match. And you know what makes it even better? The album is a tight 11 tracks and 36 minutes. The verdict? Enthusiastically recommended times 100!
Favorites: “Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”