Album Reviews

Jamie Foxx – Unpredictable

(J Records) UK release date: 24 April 2006

Academy Award winner, writer, producer, stand-up comedian and now returning to a singing career he began in 1994, Eric Bishop is on the crest of a wave.

Cleverly shedding a name better suited to Ramsay Street, Jamie Foxx has emerged an American Icon; he has the hottest names in hip-hop adding their weight to this release, and at 38 years old, remains a pin-up to rival the best of them. Big things are expected.

But is there room for more R&B artists at present? We’ve got soul, sex appeal, silly hats and infinite genre hybrids; but perhaps a back-to-basics approach would be looked kindly upon. Title track Unpredictable shows elements of this with a stripped-down sound allowing Foxx’s gentle voice dominate. As a lead single to the album, it shows something of a bad side; lyrical inspiration is restricted to “one plus one make two when you’re with me,” and with the added weight of a rasping contribution from Ludacris, it sounds like something Usher passed over.

Thankfully Foxx quickly comes into his own with Warm Bed, a track with far less commercial feel and far better vocal melody. This theme extends into DJ Play A Love Song which shows off the seductive side of Foxx’s voice. Unfortunately Twista‘s violent promise to do the girl in question up against a wall, rather disrupts an enjoyable bedroom track.

With You is one of the album’s bounciest moments, the combination of Foxx at the piano and Snoop Dogg‘s hip-hop influence proving effective. It is the more heartfelt tracks that prove the best listen however, such as Can I Take U Home and Love Changes, the latter featuring an excellent, if not slightly camp, chorus from Mary J Blige.

The piano-led Extravaganza, a catchy sing-along about a one night stand, would be a good bet for the next single release, not least for the presence of Kanye West, unsurprisingly the best collaborator on the album. Lamenting the fact “I had one too many drinks,” Foxx is nonetheless drawing attention to his skills as a lover, which he explains in Three Letter Word, soulfully crooning that “sex” is on his mind at all times.

Do What I Do continues the bedroom ballad theme, this time “I just wana take your freakin’ clothes off” is the offer. Yet despite the effectiveness of this technique, tracks begin to sound slightly monotonous at this stage, which makes Heaven, when it arrives, such a highlight. A piano ballad with more than a touch of John Legend about it, this track does away with the thudding back beats that had characterised the album up until this point. This gives the vocals more space to take effect, and Foxx takes his opportunity to soar.

Wish U Were Here is a perfect ending to Unpredictable, with a clear dedication to Foxx’s late mother, Estelle Talley. Artists have always sung about how wealth does not make them happy, the difference here is that, when Jamie Foxx sings “a million dollar home, but I’m barely getting by” he sounds convincing. To sing about being reunited in heaven is such a clich�, but this track is so rife with emotion that everything seems to fit.

Foxx’s music and range of vocal techniques are not unique, but perhaps this added touch of genuine, heartfelt realism is what will see the actor make a successful jump into the music industry.

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More on Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx – Intuition
Jamie Foxx – Unpredictable

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