Her debut album Southern Hummingbird marked Charlene “Tweet” Keys out as a prodigious singer of R&B and soul, setting a formidable standard for her to maintain on subsequent records. It contained the massive single Oops (Oh My), a sultry tune featuring Missy Elliott that got the US chart in a right lather.
Indeed Missy’s fingerprints are all over this album, the rapper described by Tweet as “my big sister” for her part in quite literally saving the singer’s life from the clutches of depression and suicide. The first album therefore reflected a triumph over demons, revealing a host of conflicting emotions and frequently on the edge.
It’s Me Again refreshingly does not tread those boards with quite as much regularity, but in doing so loses some of the rough edges. For this is an album about love – good love, bad love and the elation and pain that it entails. Give it a few listens though and the music starts to take hold.
Tweet immediately turns up the temperature on the recent single Turn Da Lights Off, but the opposite is true for Iceberg, an offstage vocal proclaiming: “How could you turn so cold?” The love is back in the following track however, with the lyrics: “I never had someone to hold me quite this close”, and Cab Ride finds her on the way to see her lover, strains of the Taxi theme in the background and a brilliant but brief reference to a track from the last album on the car radio.
Missy’s contributions are perfunctory and vocally pretty standard for a rapper of her stature, but there’s no doubting her songwriting continues to assert itself. The chief example here is Sport, Sex & Food – look away now, chaps! – where Tweet names these three things as the way to a man’s heart. I’ll say no more, safe to say it’s a cracking track with cheerleader style handclaps, brilliantly done. It’s to Tweet’s advantage that she can adapt to so many variants of soul and R&B, throwing in a touch of funk here, hip hop there and even a Louis Armstrong sample on You, inhabiting a curious sound world over a booming kick drum.
Ultimately, good though this record is, it falls just short of the standards set by its predecessor, which had superb musicianship from the guests employed. Here Missy marks time in Things I Don’t Mean, and the duet with Tweet’s own daughter Tashawna, while sweetly sung, cloys a little. The lyrics are every bit as good, and Tweet remains the master of the subtle put down – she may be cooing softly on Small Change but a listen to the words reveals a backhanded slap for her man.
It will be interesting to see if she stays with Missy for the duration, as the suspicion remains that the ideas could dry up soon. With such a gorgeous voice, rich in depth and colour, it would be interesting to pit her against producers such as The Neptunes or Andre 3000. She could easily do justice to these collaborators.