Stacy Barthe delivers a meaningful debut album with ‘BEcoming’
Stacy Barthe • BEcoming • Motown • Release Date: July 10, 2015
A gargantuan problem with R&B today is PROMO, rather the LACK OF PROMO. Sure, there are other issues (oversexed-ness and lack of clear identity in some instances), but the lack of rock solid promotional campaigns definitely prevents artists from being lucrative in the big picture. That’s the reason why a gifted musician the likes singer/songwriter Stacy Barthe can release an impressive debut album (BEcoming) and few R&B enthusiasts are aware. If it weren’t for the sure curiosity of being the über music nerd of this millennium, perhaps the exceptionalness that is Barthe and BEcoming wouldn’t have entered my personal life.
BEcoming isn’t your typical contemporary R&B album. This is an effort that is more sagacious and introspective compared to the multitude. Honestly, it’s heavy at times, and running 17 tracks deep, that heaviness is even more pronounced. Throughout its course, Barthe definitely builds a connection with the audience and material, as she infuses her personal struggles and the overcoming of those issues into the music. This personal touch builds indisputable authenticity and eliminates superficiality. In layman’s terms, BEcoming eschews fakeness and bull.
THE PROS: Throughout BEcoming, Barthe tends to deliver the music with a sense of poise and the upmost control. This doesn’t mean she under-sings (she doesn’t) but she also doesn’t require elaborative gospel histrionics to showcase emotion or drive her songs home. Her balance is a page that so many other singers young and old should take out of her book. The production work also tends to be tidy and never crosses the line of crowdedness or being overwrought though the grooves are quite rhythmic.
While the album may wear on towards the tail-end, the majority of the affair is strong, meaningful, and plays a vital role in the narrative – one of personal struggles and rebounding from such struggles. Opener “My Suicide Note” is chilling, as Barthe digs deep making a tone poem of her own failed suicidal attempt back in 2010, intact with sounds of the pills being emptied from the bottle, the water being poured into the glass, and the glass breaking as it falls out of Barthe’s hand. From that bothersome start, “In My Head” accelerates the tempo finding Barthe come to terms with her issues. Still, darkness still lingers representing Barthe (and everybody else) is a “work in progress,” hence the minor key (D minor to be exact).
“Sleep To Dream” can be best described by one popular word and state of mind: escapism, while “Eyes Wide Shut” tackles the hardships of life, with Barthe admitting she’s got her “eyes wide shut / cause the world is just too scary to face sometimes.” Arguably the set’s most valedictory moment comes by way of “Me Versus Me,” which deals with the notion were are our own worst enemy and can defeat our selves. Poised with quiet energy, there is magic behind “Me” that’s haunting.
The list of notable performances can go on and on, whether it’s the perfectness of the unstable production of “Find It (Transition)” matching the transitional sentiment of the lyrics, or Barthe’s splendid eclectic musical tastes shining on the reggae-tinged “Hey You There.” THE PROS of BEcoming easily outweigh the CONS. What cons?
THE CONS: Are we perfect as people? No – of course not – and the same can be said of even the near-perfect album. BEcoming is grand, so most of the cons are both arguable, nitpicky, and don’t kill the vibe. Firstly, the album is a bit on the long side. 17 tracks is ambitious these days, particularly when the material is heavy. Secondly, there are no outright commercial hits. No, Barthe doesn’t have to aim to be the next Mary J. Blige with radio hits, but given BEcoming’s makeup, it’s hard to see that record that gets spins on urban radio, let alone the mainstream. Finally, this album appeals to a more mature R&B audience – it’s not likely to win a younger crowd. The problem with that, who’s more informed about new music? Yep you guessed it – the young uns.
All this considered, where’s the deal breaker? Nonexistent of course! Ultimately, BEcoming is one of the best R&B albums of 2015. In a year that has had few triumphs, Barthe gives true, dedicated R&B fans something to get excited about. The worst part alludes back the first paragraph – where was the promotion for such an awesome album as BEcoming? You’ve got to promote a sista!
Favorites: “In My Head,” “Me Versus Me,” “Find It (Transitions),” “Flawed Beautiful Creatures,” and “Hey You There”