I Am

Chrisette Michele

Def Jam, 2007

http://www.thisischrisettemichele.com/

REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/22/2011

I was floored when I first saw Chrisette Michele on MTV. I should point out I don’t watch MTV regularly (in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve watched it since that day about three years ago); I happened to stop on the channel when Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” video was playing. I was unfamiliar with Winehouse but had heard of her, so I was interested enough to finish the whole video. “Time to move on” was my thought after the video ended, but Michele’s “Be OK” commenced. Her voice was clearly of the contemporary R&B variety but tinged with enough traditional jazz to remind one of singers like Billie Holiday. She had a beautiful down-to-earth look, not lean or overly glamorized. How did this woman get a record? The only thing that annoyed me about the song – and still does – was will.i.am.’s innocuous guest appearance. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Notwithstanding that I Am as a phrase conveys next to nothing at this point (it’s been the title of a more than a dozen albums), the cover of the album says a lot. Michele is a bundle of positive energy. “Like A Dream,” a combination of R&B, soul, and jazz, is about a drummer she meets in a club, and Michele’s elation is completely relatable. “I put his digits in my phone / And I promised I’d call” and “I smiled the whole to the crib” are things that many of us – heterosexual or homosexual, male or female – wouldn’t mind experiencing every day. So just listen to the damn song.

“Best Of Me” is Michele at her smokiest. The song is the jazziest on the album with great acoustic guitar by Face, qualifying it as my favorite track. I also think “Mr. Radio” is a sexy song in its simplicity: “Talk about a man’s lips / Talk about a man’s hips / Talk about a man’s eyes / Talk about a woman’s lips / Talk about a woman’s breasts / Talk about a woman’s thighs” (yes, the second “lips” is just repetitive, not dirty). Michele goes from this to remarking how love travels beyond the physical, keeping her sophistication. “Work It Out” has a strong gospel vibe, and she seems right at home with that, undoubtedly due to her religious background and experience leading a choir in high school. “Your Joy” is a sweet song to her father, but I don’t really care about it because I’m a single man with no children.

Alright, so at this point you can tell that she’s a good girl. She hammers this point too much with “Good Girl,” which strikes me as typical posturing mainstream R&B. One might argue that it’s another side of Michele, but it just bores me. A better track showing her strength as a woman is “In This For You” in which she pushes her vocals to the brink while an intermittent double-snare keeps the song in high gear.

I Am could be a stronger album with fewer tracks and more cohesive production (it was recorded in several studios across the country), but I’m simply thankful that Michele was able to make a record that challenges the cynics and moneymakers in the music industry.

Rating: B+

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© 2011 Jedediah Pressgrove and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Def Jam, and is used for informational purposes only.