When it comes to music, the world’s fascination with all things American has always puzzled me. Of course such a powerhouse will always be at the forefront of popularity, but the world is a big place. Those of you with Blinkered musical vision are missing out on so many great releases it boggles the mind. With her debut long player, ‘Good Day’, Charlene is intent on directing a collective gaze her way.
Things kick off and end in great style with the summary mid-tempo title track, and the bouncy up-tempo DJ Quikified groove ‘First Date’. In between things move along fairly nicely with the hollow snare of ‘Second Guessing’ and the synth claps of ‘My Yesterday’, bringing back memories of those mid 90s end of the night slow jams… and slow grinds (Kut Klose, Brownstone, Sparkle, Kelly Price). As much as I like to harp on about it in certain circumstances, this is clear evidence that boundary pushing doesn’t have to be the goal all the time.
Charlene herself has a voice made for a slow or mid tempo jam, soft, sultry, and with a minor percentage of shrillness and she effortlessly takes care with the slower songs. My album favourite, ‘Break Ups‘, highlights as much and for me, sees Charlene excel over some lovely stripped back live drums and soft guitar. Another vocal high point is the fast paced ‘The Central Line‘. Charlene’s vocal delivery (especially on the hooks) is immediately more dexterous, nicely fit the songs Funkier gait and show a side we should see more of, on her next long player.
But even with the comely vocals I’m afraid that again I have to beat a familiar drum. Affairs of the heart are not all that life is about. There are other topics that, in the age of 24 hour news, must have caught many peoples attention. Charlene does use ‘Lost’ to approach the subject of Drug use, but I may be mistaken as the verses are written in such a way that they can be easily transposed to represent the ups an downs of a relationship (again). Marvin Gaye was a genius and What’s Going On is more than 40 years old. Surely folks have realised by now that there is nothing wrong with a different kind of substance on R’n’B albums. And please, check the levels of all your songs when you mix them. It’s a pet hate of mine to be having to turn the volume up or down from one song to the next, to either save my ear drums or hear the track in the first place (and breathe).
Rant aside, individually Good Day’s songs are accomplished and draw inspiration from a lot of other like minded genres (Funk, Jazz, Bossa Nova, etc…) but it all feels rather safe. It’s almost as if Charlene is using the music on show to execute a mission to please, which is all well and good, but that isn’t music’s only objective. Some music is meant to challenge the mind and others the soul. Good Day doesn’t do either, but what is on show is a solid, bright & breezy debut helmed by some sweet, sugary vocals.