- SPIN Rating:8 of 10
With his sixth album Trigga, Trey Songz returns, ribald and ready, to swat middling crooners out of his lane. Ty Dolla $ign, Future, Justin Bieber, Drake, Chris Brown, The Weeknd: In the two years since Songz's first chart-topping album, Chapter V, a wave of mutable rap and R&B heartthrobs has crested. The genres have always had a certain lugubrious energy in common, but now, more than ever, rappers are dabbling in 3D songwriting and R&B singers are borrowing, or creating, cadences that channel popular hip-hop. It's a beautiful time to be in the club.
But where Bieber and Brown lack subtlety and Drake and his ilk are limited singers, Trigga finds Songz in peak form and right on time. He even opens the album with a wink at a perennial black Twitter trending topic, sweetly cooing through ostensible metaphors for analingus on "Cake." "Baby this might sound rude," he demurs at first, then, "Go on lay your body down all over my plate, once I blow my candles out put it in my face." Hardly the Marquis de Sade, but Songz's bedroom rhetoric illuminates possibilities beyond the shrewd masculinity and gendered sexuality of mainstream hip-hop and R&B.
Songz has a graceful, minty, multi-octave range and, despite his consistency, a reputation for being R&B's man in the wings: too wholesome to be R. Kelly, absent the dimpled wattage of Usher, and lacking Brown's choreography. Trigga isn't as cohesive as 2009's Ready, but it's a sublime, soulful convergence of the sonic minimalism and oil-slicked synths of today's hip-hop and R&B (courtesy, mostly, of Young Thug and Migos-famous producer Dun Deal), and its sound provides a charismatic contrast to its almost anhedonic pursuit of pleasure. A 20-track album (!) never felt so breezy.
Songz is seductive and encouraging over the ultraviolet slap of DJ Mustard on "Na Na," the album's Fugees-sampling lead single, and turns a pocket-dial mishap into a smouldering ballad with a gorgeous minor scale hook on "Smart Phones." A placid, Yann Tiersen-esque ambient piano sample anchors the bitter ballad "Y.A.S. (You Ain't Shit)." And for all of the album's chauvinistic needling (like analogizing women of different ethnicities to exotic cars on "Foreign," and bringing a giddy Justin Bieber along for the ride on the remix) he sets up Nicki Minaj for a centrifugal counterpoint on "Touchin' Lovin,'" a song that interpolates a melody from Notorious B.I.G. and R. Kelly's "Fuck You Tonight." Sneering, she comes in with her own boudoir manifesto: "Sometimes I tell 'em I love 'em because I just want to fuck 'em."