Chrisette Michele • The Lyricists’ Opus • © Chrisette Michele LLC • US Release Date: November 24, 2014
Some of the most gifted musicians don’t get their just do, particularly in the R&B market. Many of the commercially (or semi-commercially) successful R&B artists of the day have to incorporate pop into their music to make it appeal to a more commercial audience given a cooler reception to R&B. The once prolific neo-soul movement has long been dead, and uttering neo-soul in 2014 is nothing short of a death sentence.
Free of major label dictation, Chrisette Michele issues her first independent effort, EP The Lyricists’ Opus. Look no further than some of the song titles and the listener can see that Ms. Michele tapped into her inner hipster-ness to deliver the kind of album she wanted to with no strings attached. While nothing about The Lyricists’ Opus suggests it being an album dominating the R&B market commercially, arguably, Michele is better off because it plays to her artistic sensibilities.
“My Favorite Thing That Ever Happened,” featuring Justin Lyons, initiates The Lyricists’ Opus. On the intro, Michele’s eclectic, hipster persona shines through, foreshadowing the ‘five pieces of her opus.’ “Art” proves to be a grand fusion of jazz and soul, anchored by a simple, but highly effective groove. Strings add to the lushness and overall beauty, complementing Michele’s cool, but nuanced vocals. Vocally, Michele’s tone is clear as a bell.
“Super Chris” follows in exceptional fashion, highlighting Michele’s distinct, inescapable pipes. Here, she reflects upon her feelings and self, ultimately questioning, “Am I a superstar / is that who I are?” She goes on to answer, “Not really, not at all / I’m fierce / a super Chris.” “Together” slackens the tempo, giving The Lyricists’ Opus a truly electrifying slow jam. Here, Michele’s smoky low register is the star, painting a lush background magnificently. When she ascends higher, she sends chills – those “goosies” Jennifer Lopez often references on American Idol.
“Hennessy Shot” quickens the pace, incorporating more pronounced rhythm than “Together.” Michele’s cool, calm, and collected approach dominate, as Michele never sounds as if she has to ‘push’ to convey her feelings. It’s less captivating than the tracks that precede it, but still enjoyable and fits the vibe. Sixth track “Make Us One” concludes The Lyricists’ Opus with an assist from The Rich Hipster Chorus. Fittingly, there’s a gospel edge about it, leaving the listener with some inspiration.
Ultimately, The Lyricists’ Opus feels like Chrisette Michele was free to deliver the kind of effort she wanted to, without the constrain of a major label breathing down her neck. There’s nothing here that suggests a commercial hit – this is just sound, creative R&B music incorporating Michele’s eclectic artistic nature. Always the underrated musician, The Lyricists’ Opus shows why Michele shouldn’t be the least bit underrated.
Favorites: “Art,” “Super Chris,” “Together”