Keith Sweat, Dress to Impress | Album Review
New Jack Swing R&B veteran Keith Sweat remains tried-and-true on Dress to Impress, delivering a well-rounded grown-folks R&B album.
It’s been years since New Jack Swing was a dominant force in R&B. Taking it a step further, it’s been years since R&B has been dominant in the music industry. R&B is “cooler than a cucumber” – sometimes, it seems frozen. Regardless of ill commercial fortunes, R&B artists continue to grind. Many continue to release quality material. Keith Sweat is among those.
Sweat was humongous during the New Jack Swing era; he has the platinum plaques to prove it. Even though New Jack has been dead for a long time, it hasn’t stopped Sweat from releasing new music. Latest album Dress to Impress is a welcome addition to Sweat’s collection. Respectable and sound, Dress to Impress is tried-and-true as opposed to breaking into new territory or assimilating to modern R&B.
At an ambitious 16 tracks, Dress to Impress hearkens back to the days where albums exceeding an hour were common. In 2016, it’s too much. At least, too much allows the soulful R&B vet to showcase his sensational set of pipes.
“Good Love” kicks things off ‘grown and sexy.’ Old school – 80s adult contemporary style – “Good Love” features lush backing vocals hyping Sweat’s commanding lead. Although familiar, it’s potent.
“Tonight” continues to revisit “the glory days.” Silk guests, perfectly complementing Sweat. The expected cues are firmly planted: a romantic palette of sounds, background vocals, and a dramatic key change. “Just The 2 Of Us” is more effective, swapping Silk for Takiya Mason. Sweat excels at duets and “Just The 2 Of Us” is no different. Clearly, it favors one of Sweat’s classics – “Make It Last Forever.” While not a carbon copy, the record has the same vibe and production cues, and we can’t hate on it for that.
“Pulling Out the One” shows Sweat showcasing more swagger. “Pulling Out the One” doesn’t compromise his artistry, but he’s definitely cooler, considering he’s an O.G. Despite his 55 years, Sweat still wants her to “rock this shit from left to right.” He doesn’t miss a beat on sexy follow-up “Special Night.” Five tracks in, sex – albeit a mature, grown-folks’ edition – is the M.O.
Slow jam “Back and Forth” employs the talkbox, particularly popular in the 80s and 90s. “Give You All of Me” flips the script, speeding up the tempo and embracing funk, again the “80s edition.” “Give You All of Me” is successful, but not daring or ‘brand new.’ The same can be said of “Missing You Like Crazy” featuring Dru Hill. Dru Hill haven’t been relevant since the 90s, but sound exceptional on this highlight.
“Lovers and Friends”
Moving down the track list, the script continues to play tried-and-true. “Lovers and Friends” the song is as predictable as the concept itself. Slow jam “Feels Good” doesn’t necessarily wow, but like everything preceding it, Sweat sings it proficiently. Ditto for “Better Love,” which doesn’t outpace any of previous classics, nor the best of Dress to Impress. Still, KS sings the bleep out of it.
By the arrival of the generally pleasant title track “Dressed to Impress,” Dress to Impress grows a bit on the boring side. “Can’t Let You Go” doesn’t quite revive the momentum, but “Say” provides a slight change of pace, thanks to uncluttered, lighter production work. “Get It In” isn’t far-fetched from earlier sound, not ‘earth-shattering’ grown-folks loving joints. Dress to Impress powerfully closes “Let’s Go To Bed” which features the late, great Gerald Levert.
All in all, Dress to Impress is a respectable, well-rounded R&B album. There’s nothing flashy about it and it is a few songs too long, but Keith Sweat has no reason to “hang his head down.” Vocally, Sweat has never sounded better.
Gems: “Good Love,” “Just The 2 Of Us,” “Pulling Out the One” & “Special Night”