There’s a quote from Muhammad Ali that I never fully understood as a kid. “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life,” the boxing legend said. Ali’s statement speaks to growth, and on Raheem DeVaughn and Apollo Brown‘s latest project, LoveSick, we see his maturation as an artist.
DeVaughn’s ability to adapt to each instrumental makes it evident that he’s in charge of the tracks and their direction. Brown who is credited with production on every record, creates sultry and at times jazzy compositions for DeVaughn to flourish over. The drum patterns aren’t too complicated, and the melodies complement DeVaughn’s voice. Brown shows off his musicality while allowing DeVaughn’s vocals to take everything to the next level. There are a few moments where I question some of DeVaughn’s vocal rhythms, like on the intro of “Just Fall in Love.” His tones are solid, but coupled with the slow production, he sounds a bit rushed. However, it doesn’t completely hinder the sound.
The themes on LoveSick cover infidelity, drunk nights, and raunchy sex. This is a contrast from some of DeVaughn’s earlier work that can be viewed as a bit more platonic. You can hear a clear display of pain and regret on tracks like “Just Fall in Love. “I see many options, like I’m window shopping, like when changing shoes. Plus, Daddy was a playa’, it was in my blood yah, but I never knew,” DeVaughn sings. His approach here fits the somber environment of the track, and though he doesn’t give us an elaborate singing performance with high notes and runs, the focus here is the story and songwriting. Though, on tracks like “When a Man,” where he’s wooing a woman with all of the potential perks of being with him, he gives us a full dense representation of his vocal range. In the early stages of the piece, he gives us a chilling shriek, one that you’d hear from Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire.
DeVaughn’s writing can be interpreted as a stream of consciousness– something you’d find in a journal. On “If I Made Love to You,” DeVaughn takes a moment to describe the different ways he would make love to the woman he has feelings for. Though, it doesn’t sound like he is speaking to his love interest “directly.” The quickness in his delivery and the underlying anxiety in his voice sounds like he’s singing in bullet points. You can visualize DeVaughn jotting down these thoughts with a pen and reading them aloud– hoping the woman he wants will be persuaded by his offerings. “I would play all the slow jam songs… There’d be no need to rush… You could scream til’ I make your legs numb like a tranquilizer.” DeVaughn sings. This style is felt across the project on records like “I Still Love you,” and “On Top” as well.
DeVaughn and Brown give us an unapologetically vulnerable and transparent project with LoveSick. We have the chance to dive into the mind of a hopeless romantic, self-proclaimed “player,” and perfect partner, all encompassed through Raheem DeVaughn.