Musiq Soulchild, Feel the Real | Album Review
Philly neo-soul artist Musiq Soulchild remains consistent on his soulful, lengthy double album, ‘Feel the Real.’
Soulfulness. Consistency. Sensual. Those are some of the characterizations of Musiq Soulchild. R&B certainly isn’t what or where it used to be, yet Musiq Soulchild continues to stick it out. Not only does he just stick it out, he remains prolific. After dropping Life on Earth in 2016, he returns with a double album, Feel the Real in 2017. As expected, the results are rock solid – consistent to the nth degree. We’ll keep things short and sweet for this album review.
The voice. Where do you start with the pros? Musiq Soulchild himself of course. Throughout Feel the Real, his voice remains the star of show. He’s incredibly expressive, exhibiting incredible authenticity, smoothness, and soulfulness. Something that never goes awry is the voice. It’s honestly impossible to pick out one performance where he sounds clearly superior to the others – he’s that consistent.
The production, sound, and vibe. Among other general pros is the production work. Generally, Musiq has thrived off a familiar sound since the neo-soul movement was big. The same can be said of Feel the Real. The harmonic progressions remain jazzy and sometimes out of the box, a rarity among the new-school of R&B musicians. Musically, there’s still the sense that these songs are clear ‘descendants’ of 70s soul, hence accurately representing the characterization of rhythm and blues. The bass lines are souped-up, the guitars chill, and the overall feel is chill and lush.
The songs. Throughout Feel the Real, there are some fine musical selections. No, not every song stands out as a classic per se, but collectively, there are some exceptional moments. Early on in particular, Musiq Soulchild is on autopilot. “Feel the Real” is classic Musiq, thoughtfully pairing him with another neo-soul proponent, Marsha Ambrosius. It’s followed by the sexual “Benefits” that never crosses the line, maintaining a sense of class.
Single “Humble Pie” can’t be left out – it kicks off the second disc fabulously. Arguably, “Humble Pie” stands out more contextually compared to being a single/teaser track. “Simple Things” concludes the effort as lushly and soulfully as it commenced. It’s particularly glorious when Musiq digs in more into his vocal performance towards the end.
Throughout the album, Musiq is assisted by Willie HyN, who further accentuates the performances with his rhymes. Sequence plays an interesting role in the success of this album. “My Bad” (featuring Willie HyN) and “Start Over” complement one another magnificently, as opposites. After being bold on standout “Hard Liquor,” he seems to regret his actions, particularly the alcoholic shots on “Shudawudacuda.”
The pros far outweigh the cons on Feel the Real. The biggest con is obvious – length. As consistent as Feel the Real is, a 100-minute mark in the age of the 40-minute album is a bit much. Edits slimming down Feel the Real would’ve made it just as, if not more, effective.
A more nitpicky con is themes and songwriting. This is mostly tied to the length, but there’s a lot of love, sex, and in-between, without Musiq Soulchild broadening his horizons. Yes, these theme define his career, but with nearly 100 minutes of music, it’s pushing it. Also, tied in with that, perhaps the lushness, vocal layers, and jazzy progressions blend together after a while. Again, nitpicky, but arguably, the listener will place more weight on the first disc compared to the second.
All in all, Feel the Real is a fine addition to the Musiq Soulchild discography. He sounds awesome vocally, the songs are well-written, and the production work is excellent. He never really misses the mark. The biggest rub is simply the length – this is a lot of album. Everyone can have too many sweets – too much dessert. That’s sort of the case with Feel the Real. Still, can’t deny the artistry and consistency of Musiq.
Gems: “Feel the Real,” “Benefits,” “Sooner or Later,” “Start Liquor,” “Hard Liquor,” “Humble Pie” & “Let Go”