Ledisi, Let Love Rule | Album Review
Classy, adult contemporary R&B powerhouse Ledisi drops another consistent album with ‘Let Love Rule.’
In 2017, Ledisi decided she would Let Love Rule. She commenced by establishing the “High” months before dropping the new album. That high was promo single, “High,” of course. She followed up with three more consistent teaser tracks: “Add to Me,” “Here,” and “Us 4Ever.” The results remain the same, album after album – sheer excellence. Let Love Rule may not be her best album, but ‘consistency’ is its imaginary middle name.
Let Love Rule commences with a brief spoken word intro, “I Choose Today,” performed by Iyanla Vanzant. It’s followed by “Shot Down,” a funky, reggae-infused, socially-conscious joint. The production work is exceptional, particularly the horns and dusty, soulful drums. Ledisi is on autopilot, delivering clear, commanding, and assertive vocals. Ultimately, this is a thoughtful full-length opener. Another spoken word interlude, “Tomorrow is a New Start” follows, performed by Soledad O’Brien.
Naturally, the interlude foreshadows the title track, “Let Love Rule” follows. The overall vibe is old-school, throwback soul. Even so, there’s still a dash of reggae and tropical cues, thanks to the percussion. Once more, Ledisi delivers a commanding vocal performance, steeped in soul. She sounds authentic, particularly her vocal nuances – the cracks, etc. This isn’t the crowning achievement, but a respectable, pleasant moment.
“Add to Me”
The first thing the listener will notice about highlight “Add to Me” is the sound. The production work is awesome – soulful, slick, and modern. The content stands out as well. Ledisi wants to know what her man is “going to add” to her – what’s he going to bring to the table to make a sound relationship. “Add to Me” paints Ledisi as an incredibly confident, strong, and independent woman who understands her worth without a man.
“Hello to the Pain,” another spoken interlude performed by Iyanla Vanzant, precedes full-length record “Hello.” “Hello,” like “Add to Me,” has plenty of modern, urban contemporary touches. Still, there’s a sense of classicism, thanks to the jazzy harmonic progression, not to mention the ‘old-soul’ of Ledisi. Brief, “Hello” packs a sufficient punch, nonetheless.
“Forgiveness” runs longer, approaching five minutes as opposed to three. Nonetheless, this is Ledisi at her finest. The soul is amped-up, the messaging is relatable – pitch-perfect – and all in all, it’s sound. There is no percussion, yet guitar carries the rhythm like a champ. The chorus is the finest moment, carried by the backing vocals allowing Ledisi freedom to ad-lib.
Teaser track “Here” restores the groove, serving as one of the standouts from Let Love Rule. The production is uncluttered, well mixed, and thoughtfully assembled. There are plenty of soundly executed musical cues, including backing vocals, horns, guitar, and piano. Old-school without being anachronistic, “Here” suits Ledisi perfectly. Her vocal tone remains pure. With such a potent, powerful instrument, she shows incredible restraint her, letting loose instinctively, at the right moments.
“Us 4Ever,” another teaser, follows in all its glory, enlisting BJ the Chicago Kid. Like much of the album, the production is magnificent. Ledisi continues to thrive vocally, exhibiting great control, pushing her pipes naturally, when it feels right. The vocal production on the chorus is particularly strong, with the vocals popping out. BJ the Chicago Kid show up until the 2:30 mark – the third verse. Even so, he’s worth the wait, showcasing his lovely tone, soulful runs, and complementing Ledisi awesomely. Magnificent ad-libs by Ledisi at the end, give “Us 4ever” another selling point. The scatting stands out in particular.
“Give You More”
On “Give You More,” Ledisi trades BJ the Chicago Kid for John Legend – she keeps pretty good company throughout Let Love Rule. While “Give You More” isn’t the ‘home run’ of Let Love Rule, there are some terrific moments. The vocal chemistry between Ledisi and Legend on the chorus in particular shines.
“High” features exceptional production work. The sound balances old- and new school soundly. The brass hits clearly hearken back to the past, while the drum programming is sheik and modern. Vocally, Ledisi remains among the crème de la crème. She flaunts her range towards the end of “High.” Throughout the course of the song, she’s always in command, never letting the production work overpower her.
Penultimate number “All the Way,” follows the final interlude of the album, “Understanding / I Love You.” “All the Way” is the longest song of Let Love Rule, crossing the five-minute mark. Length doesn’t matter, as Ledisi showcases brilliant vocal prowess and sheer magic. “All the Way” intensifies more as it progresses, with Ledisi letting the song ‘get all over her.’ Call “All the Way” what it is – adult contemporary R&B heaven. “If You Don’t Mind” concludes Let Love Rule successful with more groove.
All in all, Let Love Rule gives Ledisi another consistent, enjoyable R&B album. Perhaps this isn’t her best album, but there’s NO SHAME in that. She’s been brilliant throughout her career. Face it – topping Lost and Found or Turn Me Loose is no easy task. With each album, Ledisi continues to flex, ‘doing her thing.’ Let Love Rule is no different.
Gems: “Shot Down,” “Add to Me,” “Forgiveness,” “Here,” “Us 4Ever” & “High”