Marsha Ambrosius • Friends & Lovers • RCA • US Release Date: July 15, 2014
British R&B artist Marsha Ambrosius (formerly of Floetry)released her sophomore album Friends & Lovers on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Friends & Lovers follows up Ambrosius’ 2011 debut, Late Nights & Early Mornings, which was led by singles “Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)” and “Far Away.” After listening to the sadly under promoted Friends & Lovers a couple of times, there were some notable takeaways – specifically 10 takeaways. Here they are:
1) Ambrosius’ voice is stunning.
Throughout the course of Friends & Lovers, Ambrosius impresses with her distinctive pipes. Ambrosius’ voice definitely has character, which she highlights on each and every song and interlude. There’s a bit of a yodel (for lack of a better word) that has and continues to set her aside from others. More noteworthy is her falsetto, which is ripe.
2) She excels at grinding, slow jams
Ambrosius’ lane is grinding, slow jams. “With You” was one of her best moments from her debut, Late Nights & Early Mornings because it presented her in a commanding light. Grinders like “La La La La La” and “Spend All My Time” (featuring Charlie Wilson) truly show off Ambrosius’ vocal capabilities.
3) The material is consistent and strong for the most part
The songs throughout Friends & Lovers are consistent and overall enjoyable. Ambrosius doesn’t deviate much from the script, but there are no deal breakers that kill the vibe or hurt the quality of the album as a whole.
4) Ambrosius keeps select company
R&B albums these days tend to be filled with numerous guest artists. Ambrosius bucks the trend, only calling on a select few guests: Dr. Dre (“Stronger”), Charlie Wilson (“Spend All My Time”), and Skye and Lindsey Stirling (“Streets of London”).
5) The vocal production and vocal arrangements stand out.
Besides those magnificent pipes from Ambrosius, the vocal production that accentuates those pipes is exceptional in itself. The vocal arrangements, comprised of some intricate backing vocals, truly strengthen the songs and the album as a whole. Listening, one can hear the thought, detail, and time that went into getting the arrangement/sound just right.
6) …So does the overall production – samples and all…
If there happened to be little else to compliment this album about (there’s plenty), one of the areas also deserved of recognition is the overall production. While the album sounds hip and contemporary enough, many of the songs sport production work that hearkens back to the neo-soul movement and perhaps more relevantly, soul itself. Whether it’s merely a solid backdrop or a backdrop assisted by a sampling, the production is noteworthy.
7) Ambrosius enjoys singing about sex…
When a song is entitled “69,” one can safely assume “were’ not in Kansas anymore.” Sure, Ambrosius also has more meaningful moments driven by the emotion of the relationship, but she also enjoys getting down. Besides the obvious “69,” “So Good,” “Night Time,” “Shoes,” and “La La La La La” all indulge in sex as inspiration. So does interlude “Kiss & F*ck” for good measure.
8) The album clocks in at over an hour…
Although Ambrosius has crossed her t’s and dotted her I’s, Friends & Lovers runs long for an album of any genre (save for gospel) in 2014. Had she cut it down by ten minutes, Friends & Lovers would have remained equally if not more effective.
9) A few too many slow jam/similar songs in the back-half of Friends & Lovers
Maybe it’s the fact that generally during the back portion of the album that Ambrosius refines the subject matter from sex to love, but towards the end, some of the slow jams and songs feel a bit samey. They are good, but particularly when listened to after the elite material and after so much time has elapsed, they lack the same bite and auditory stimulation.
10) “Without You” is M.I.A.
Yeah Friends & Lovers is too long, but where in the world is “Without You” featuring Ne-Yo? “Looking in the mirror / I’m all in my feelings / got me f*cked up out here / without you.” Kind of sad it didn’t make the cut!
Ultimately, Friends & Lovers is a solid album – better than its lackadaisical promotion would lead you to believe. Even the more libidinous numbers are good ear candy, despite their shallowness. Underrated? Many of the most talented artists are.