First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by John Metzger
Since releasing her debut The Soul Sessions in 2003, Joss Stone has been everywhere. She has made appearances at the Grammy Awards, was interviewed by Oprah, and was featured in two major advertising campaigns for a clothing outlet. She performed at the Live 8 benefit, and she has shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples, Elton John, and James Brown. In other words, the world already is quite aware of whom she is, and consequently, no further introduction is necessary.
The meaning behind the title of her latest outing Introducing...Joss Stone, however, has less to do with making her a household name than it does with giving her more control over her career. After all, The Soul Sessions was a good album, but it also was scripted from start to finish by an army of industry veterans. The same was true of her sophomore effort Mind, Body & Soul, though the effort also stood on shakier ground, no thanks to its blander material and over-the-top production. Although she jettisoned her former collaborators in order to forge a working relationship with producer Raphael Saadiq, the differences between Introducing...Joss Stone and her prior endeavors are, when all is said and done, marginal. In effect, she swapped one set of seasoned performers for another.
Introducing...Joss Stoneís most noticeable deviation from the status quo revolves around her lyrics. Stone took a far more active role in writing material for the album, and it shows. "I canít wait to see your face everyday/I canít explain the way I feel when Iím around you," she sings on Baby, Baby, Baby as if reading from a Hallmark card. Other tracks revolve around lines such as "Catch me, catch me Iím falling/Iím falling in love with you" from Proper Nice and "Maybe hurt me a little less/Then I can start to breathe/But still your heart is out of reach" from What Were We Thinking. At the age of 19, it seems Stone still has a lot to learn about how to put her thoughts into words without dipping into clichť.
Unfortunately, the music on Introducing...Joss Stone is equally unimaginative, and at times, Stone and Saadiq appear to be focused more upon finding a groove than they are on concocting a memorable melody. Consequently, the songs slip past in a fashion that is aurally pristine but frustratingly generic, and they never quite find the emotional power they need to survive. Part of this stems from Stone herself, who increasingly has had a tendency to overdo it with her vocals by filling every space with sound. For the most part, she still manages to refrain from dipping into the modern-day approach of drawing each phrase to a close with an endless blathering of notes, but deep down, her connection to her material is noticeably absent.
Still, in terms of contemporary R&B, Introducing...Joss Stone isnít a total loss. In fact, the earthy funk of Tell Me íBout It and the shimmering, Motown-imbued pop of Girl They Wonít Believe It are successful. Even Tell Me What Weíre Gonna Do Now, her duet with Common, manages to escape its initial egocentric name-checking in order to find transcendence. Considering how much attention she drew to herself, however ó both via the setís title as well as by beginning the collection with a puzzling, spoken-word rumination by Vinnie Jones about change ó she has made it terribly difficult for critics and fans alike to avoid focusing upon her weaknesses rather than her strengths. Make no mistake ó Introducing...Joss Stone is a solid set of songs that are certain to please her most devoted followers. The rest of the world simply ought to wait until she has matured before getting reacquainted.
Of Further Interest...
Introducing...Joss Stone is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box