R&B stardom used to be so much simpler for guys.
You sing a sexy song about a pony or a little red Corvette, and you got yourself a career if you did it right. But in recent years, that wasn't enough. For superstars like Justin Timberlake and Usher, sexy R&B songs weren't enough when there were envelopes to push and artistic standing to consider, which made things far more uptight.
Maybe that's why "SoMo" (Republic) sounds so refreshing. SoMo, aka Joseph Somers-Morales, isn't caught up in all the other issues of R&B stardom on his debut. He just wants to sing about sex and love -- not necessarily in that order. And he does it really well.
His first single, "Ride," feels like the new-millennium version of Ginuwine's "Pony" -- simple, effective and essentially timeless as a slow jam, destined for a prom near you. However, "Hush" shows SoMo is, well, no one-trick pony. A breezy bit of disco-flecked soul, like a lightweight "Hold On, We're Going Home," "Hush" is a clever, catchy good time that gives SoMo a chance to deliver some smooth vocals to create one of the best pop songs so far this year.
While "Crash" owes some to The Weeknd's timely icy synthesizer soundscapes, the bulk of "SoMo" could have been released at any point in the past three decades. More important for SoMo, though, is that the bulk of his debut will likely work for the next three decades. You can never have too many soulful slow jams.
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE New-school success for old-school R&B singer.