Up and coming crooner Jacquees possesses one of the great tones in contemporary R&B – glinting and willowy, his voice skims over beats with guileless, melismatic charm. But on his debut album his musical choices are as single-minded as his voice is elastic. He slips from one romantic conquest to the next, but his unvarying approach dulls the impact of his erotic fireworks – and his album.
There’s a formula at work here: low-to-mid tempo, bottom-heavy beats, simple melodies laid out with a few sturdy chords, and pliant singing from Jacquees, who slides up and down the scale as he seduces, sexes and then reasserts his commitment to unapologetic single-dom. He often references R&B from the late 1990s and early 2000s, bringing in Donell Jones, a silky, under-appreciated singer from Chicago, on “23;” and employing a bassline on “Play the Field” that evokes Ginuwine’s “Pony.”
This combination has worked for Jacquees in the past, notably on “B.E.D.,” his breakout, Avant-interpolating hit, which reappears here, and “Ocean,” a bawdy, beguilingly minimal collaboration with TK Kravitz that was one of the most added songs on R&B/hip-hop radio this week. But over the course of 18 songs, this mode starts to feel stifling. The chorus of “All About Us” echoes Jodeci, but Jodeci, masters of long-game, tantric R&B in the 1990s, knew that sometimes you need to pick up the pace. Without a little fast, slow begins to lose some of its sexiness, and 4275 could do with a jolt like “At the Club,” a fleet duet between Jacquees and Dej Loaf that became a hit, or “Know You,” a strutting cut from the singer’s Mood mixtape.
That jolt never comes, at least not in the form of tempo. But on the album’s final track, “Special,” Jacquees gets reinforcements in the form of Jagged Edge, one of the last male R&B groups to emerge before ensembles were swept out of the industry over a decade ago. They specialize in pleading – and pleasing – with gusto, and while 4275 invokes that tradition, it doesn’t add to it.