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Dear John,

Last time we spoke, our musical love affair was on shaky ground. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth over the snooze fest that was Once Again. Sophomoric slump in my opinion.

Although I added Evolver to the list of albums I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this year, I admit I was a bit nervous after hearing “Green Light.” Unlike some, I didn’t despise the song but it left me a bit unsettled as to where you were going with this project. Our relationship was gonna be in trouble if this album was underwhelming.

Well Johnny, guess what?

I LOVE IT!

You and I are ace boon coons once again.

One thing I can say about you as an artist is that you are certainly an evolver. With each album you have tried to create a different sound. Sometimes it worked, other times not. I have to applaud the effort. So many artists play it safe, particularly when their first album is so successful. Be prepared, many fans will hate on this album because they want you to return to your soul roots and stay there.

Although I can honestly say that there were no skips for me, a few of the songs did sound similar. I also would have liked the sound of more live instruments. I’m looking forward to seeing you on tour backed by a band. I think I’ll fall completely in love with a few of these tracks when I hear the words set to some live instrumentation.

Let’s get to a few of the songs that I have on repeat.

First, let’s just get the unpleasantness out of the way. The whole album has leaked. It happens. Moving on.

Before the entire album leak, I loved the tracks that were previewed on the music sites like “Good Morning” and “Quickly.”

 “Good Morning” should please your stans from Get Lifted. It’s easy like Sunday morning and just as sweet. I tell you, if I had you crooning that in my ear every time I opened my eyes, I just might become a morning person.

Surprisingly, you and Brandy are the perfect combination on “Quickly.”  I have a love/hate relationship with her voice but she really shines here with just the right amount of urgency that the song requires. You may just be single-handedly responsible for reviving her career. Folks are checking for her again. I like the sentiment of the song as well, Country is warring, leaders lying; I know we just met but can you love me quickly. Call me mushy but it works for me.

If I was forced to pick one track on the album as a favorite, there’s just something about “I Love, You Love.The song is simply beautiful without all of the fancy production of some of the other tracks.  I can envision this live – just you and the guitar man.

I am also really feeling the two island-flavored tracks on this album. I’m an Caribbean girl at heart so you and Estelle teaming up on “No Other Love” will be in constant rotation on my IPOD when I need a mental escape.  As if it couldn’t get any better, you and Buju Banton on the bonus track, “Can’t Be My Lover” takes me right back to that hot summer night two years ago in Jamaica at Reggae Sumfest.

Other stand out tracks for me are “This Time,” which somewhat reminds me of “Ordinary People.” Again, I’d like to see this performed live with just a single spotlight on you and the piano. I could have done without whatever that machine is in the background. It competes with the beauty of your voice at times and you struggle to win.

“Take Me Away” reminds me of Bobby Valentino’s sexy summer anthem from a few years back, “Slow Down.”  This is the perfect “club-about-to-close-seal-the-deal” song.Take me away from here…take me somewhere where love is like breathing. I don’t care where we go ‘long as I’m there with youuuuu.”  Indeed.

These days, I’m not a huge fan of rap guest appearances. Often, it’s just not needed. However, Dre and Kanye are welcome additions on “Green Light” and “It’s Over.” (sidebar: There’s no way I will be pressing play on Kanye’s album if the whole thing is going to sound like that. It was okay for sixteen bars but anymore than that, I have to vote hell no.) Nice to see Teddy Riley remixing “It’s Over,” which is another bonus track. I boogied on down to both versions.

Johnny, I know you’ll get some static on this album but even if I have to stand alone, I’m letting you know that it will get much play in my stereo. After hearing this album, I must catch you and Raphael Saadiq on tour. Great live performances of most of these tracks will likely be what it takes to get this on my top albums of 2008 list.

You’re backkkkk!

Love,

Vivrant Thang

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