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No R&B singer has produced more consistently great work in the last decade than Anthony Hamilton, in terms of both quantity and quality. Having released six albums since 2003, including his break-out album Coming From Where I’m From which went platinum, Grammy-winner Hamilton stands in a league of his own.
Usher clearly gets the nod as far as popularity, but there’s an ever-so-subtle artistic stratification between Usher’s lyrics, “honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow,” and Hamilton’s, “ain’t nobody worryin’ when the kids die young and the mothers are suffering.” It’s a toss-up with Musiq Soulchild, who can compete on both the quantity and quality fronts. Musiq’s latest records, however, have strayed from excellence and do not feature the same degree of outstanding studio instrumentation characteristic of every Hamilton album.
Back To Love is refreshingly not about pouring drinks at the club. It’s not about hollering at girls in high heels. Hamilton does despair heartaches and pains, as every dutiful R&B singer is obliged to do. Overall, the album attempts to bring society as a whole “back to love,” which Hamilton reiterates in his daily promotional tweets. The title track details a relationship that has lost some of its luster, which Hamilton entreats to restore. “We stopped sayin’ I love you, spendin’ quality time / Lord help us, we’re running out of season.”
Four track names include “love” in the title. “How many times have you searched and just gave up on love?” Hamilton begins one of my favorite tracks, Fair In Love. Of course, we know that we can’t give up on love because it’s so “lonely” when there’s “no love waiting on you.” Hamilton seems to travel on his own journey back to love over the course of the album. Finally at the end he admits that he is ready to open up to love on one of the last songs, I’m Ready. “Show me your eyes, your heavenly eyes, and let’s share our hearts tonight.” Back To Love encourages us to continue seeking out love, to take love seriously, and to love above all. You can’t knock that message.
I would suggest the album also focuses on “going back to” authentic R&B, as it was composed in the good old days. No autotune, no heavy synthesizers, no reverb; just real vocals and real instruments. Back To Love reminds us that Hamilton still reigns supreme. What say you, Maxwell and D’Angelo?