Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Since making his recording debut in 2005, Trey Songz has patiently and artfully crafted some of the most acclaimed and compelling R&B music of the decade. His first two albums yielded a trio of Top Ten singles including "Girl Tonight," "Last Time," and "Can't Help But Wait." Now, with the 2009 release of Ready, Trey Songz is more than ready to claim his place in the pantheon of R&B greats. From the street single, "Brand New," to his self-described male version of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" in "One Love," the Virginian draws on a range of influences to craft an album that will thrill his longtime fans and happily surprise all newcomers to the Trey Songz story.
Ready is the third studio album by American R&B singer Trey Songz. The album, his first studio release since 2007's Trey Day, was released by Songbook and Atlantic Records on August 31, 2009 in the United States. Production for the album began in 2008 and continued until 2009, featuring contributions from Songz's mentor Troy Taylor, Bryan-Michael Cox, Stargate, and Los Da Mystro, among others.
The album received generally positive reviews from critics. Reviews positively compared Ready to the work of R. Kelly, but criticized the album's inconsistency. It debuted at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 and peaked at number two on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 131,000 copies in its first week. The album was later certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), becoming Songz's first certified album.
Five singles released from Ready achieved chart success, including the top ten Billboard Hot 100 hit "Say Aah", and the top five Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs hits "Neighbors Know My Name" and "I Invented Sex", the latter of which topped the chart. Songz promoted Ready in a number of live appearances, including co-heading the 106 & Live tour, sponsored by 106 & Park, and serving as a support act on Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 Tour. Ready earned Songz a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards; however, it lost to Beyoncé Knowles' I Am...Sasha Fierce.
"Trey Songz is the most frustrating R&B star to emerge this decade. He possesses a piercing tenor and an instantly recognizable vocal presence, something his contemporaries (from Mario to Chris Brown to Ne-Yo) probably wish they had. And when he has material to match his voice, he is peerless. "Gotta Go", from his debut album, was the most effortlessly soulful pop song to emerge from the recent crop of millennial R&B new jacks. "We Should Be", from his sophomore album, Trey Day, was every bit its equal.
And yet, for as talented and gifted as he is, Songz' albums are always a mixed bag. In fact, he seems strikingly unconcerned with how silly some of his work actually is. Since his artistic reference point is R. Kelly, this isn't entirely surprising, but three albums into his career it is disappointing. Like many artists of his generation, he easily captures the superficial elements of his artistic forebears (in this case, R. Kelly's penchant for needlessly crass and silly lyricism when singing about sex), but misses entirely what made that artist an icon (Songz has none of R. Kelly's ability to explore physical pleasure's relationship to religious ecstasy).
In other words, he embodies R. Kelly's excesses, but none of his nuances.
"Ready" is a smartly produced album that continues Songz' habit of wildly inconsistent albums. There is some genuinely brilliant work here, but there is also some of the silliest stuff I have ever heard (The less said about "LOL :)", the better), which makes for a frustrating listening experience.
The best songs are the songs that are complete departures from the R. Kelly template ("Black Roses", "Yo Side of the Bed", and "Be Where You Are"). All three are about as brilliant as black pop gets and showcase just how versatile and expressive a vocalist Trey can be. "Black Roses" is the album standout and was co-written and produced by young wunderkind Bei Maejor, who helmed "Long Gone Missing" from Trey Day and wrote one of the better songs on Ginuwine's latest. It's a lament ("Black roses, for this dying love. Now we're breaking up") set to quasi-electronica production, buoyed by a soulful vocal arrangement. The effect is positively thrilling. "Be Where You Are" is reminiscent of Jordan Knight's "Give It To You", and it is every bit as fun as that song was. This is the purest pop song Songz has done and it really works. "Yo Side of the Bed" is pop rock, and he does it better than Beyoncé did on I Am... Sasha Fierce and Brandy did on Human.
There are a few other really good songs. Lead single "I Need a Girl" and "Neighbors Hear My Name" thump as they should and ballads "Holla If You Need Me" and "Love Lost" are emotional and affecting due to Trey's stunning lead vocal. But the album completely falls apart in the middle. At 17 tracks, a sagging middle feels positively interminable. There are also two inexplicable, incoherent appearances by Jimmy from Degrassi (otherwise known as Drake, the latest mediocre rapper to win legions of fans for no discernible reason).
What's maddening and frustrating is that Trey has put out enough great material this year to make a truly brilliant album. In June, he released a mixtape, Anticipation, that is overall a better album than Ready, even though it's more standard R&B fare. In fact five songs from that release - "Does She Know", "Infidelity", "You Belong to Me", "More Than That", and "It Would Be" - could have been included with the seven good songs on Ready to make a leaner, more consistently excellent official studio release. One that could have been the black pop record of the year.
Clearly then, what Songz needs is a surer guiding hand. Someone at Atlantic or in Songz' camp should have helped him do a better job of choosing songs for his official release. There had to be someone who was thinking that an album with "Black Roses" on it, shouldn't have "LOL : )" on it as well." - PopMatters"
"As a rapper in 2009, dropping a mixtape to create a buzz for your name before you release an album has almost become mandatory. Rarely, however, do you see an R&B artist follow this same tactic. With that said, Trey Songz' decision to put two mixtapes out this year, Anticipation and The Genesis, has benefited him through his internet fanbase. Now, with his third studio album Ready, Songz hopes he has the quality to match the work ethic.
Following an intro, Trey makes his presence felt with the record "Neighbors Know My Name." Just as the title would imply, Songz paints a picture of the lustful scenarios that occur behind closed doors. Showcasing his vocal range in the second verse, Trey proves he's more than a typical hook singer that some may think he's become over the last few years.
The topic of love making has been Songz bread and butter in the past, and he's also not afraid to step in if the other guy isn't cuttin' it. "Does He Do It" finds him displaying all the ways he's better than her ex-boyfriend, and "Holla If You Need Me" is a record that focuses on his dependability as a bedroom partner. At 24 years old, Trey Songz has yet to make the leap to "grown-man" status with his lyricism, and appropriately there is still time before he would need to. Having said that, "Jupiter Love" is a convincing journey into what his future holds. As a sensual atmosphere becomes potent from the sultry keys driving the melody to Songz providing his most sincere performance yet, this ballad could without a doubt set the mood for a baby-making session.
Ready is not all happy endings (no pun intended), however. On "Black Roses," Songz takes a direct approach to a break up that puts him in a mental stalemate. Backed by a rugged beat and cursing the thought of the past, Songz sings, "Who knew our love would ever be called a memory / Who knew my home for happiness would soon be misery / Hate that we're so distant, girl do you even miss me at all? / I guess life is no fair." While not as effective, "Love Lost" is another record with Songz wearing his heart on his sleeve. Knowing there's no way for reconciling the relationship, he helplessly pleads, "And now I see the man you need / When I look into the Mirror I see change / Then I close my eyes and wish you could see the same / But it's too late."
Similar to his past two albums, Trey Songz enlists a handful of rappers on Ready to show off his star power. Most notably, the record between him and Drake on "I Invented Sex" [click to listen] proves to be the best collaboration on the album, as a smooth, infectious melody supports the duo well. Then there's "Successful," which despite its heavy rotation on radio, actually suffers with the added verse from Trey. "Say Aah" with Fabolous [click to read] is a catchy record that could likely pass as a club staple, but it's generic theme lacks creativity. This is especially true as the hook features a similar take on Jamie Foxx's [click to read] "Blame It." However, this is nowhere near the integrity Trey Songz loses on "LOL :-)." Chronicling an updated version of a booty call, Gucci Mane [click to read] and Soulja Boy[click to read] put their own spin on it via text message and Twitter. Regardless of Trey's intentions to make a playful record that is radio friendly, this is seemingly one step forward and three steps backward for the self-proclaimed "Prince of Virginia."
As a whole, Ready is a solid effort from Trey Songz. While he and his producer/mentor Troy Taylor still have some kinks to work out, sonically, Songz is moving in the right direction. Now, the real question is whether the world is ready for Trey. For what it's worth, he seems to think so.<602527194295
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The 'Purple Rain'-like power ballad 'Yo Side of the Bed' shows that Songz can be awfully good when he plays it straight."
Personnel: Trey Songz (vocals, background vocals); Craig Love, Dwayne Cotton (guitar); Christopher "Deep" Henderson (keyboards, drum programming, background vocals); Jack Manning (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Jaycen Joshua; Dave Pensado; Noah Shebib; Jean-Marie Horvat; Phil Tan.
Liner Note Authors: Paul Gregory Senior; Paul Gregory.
Recording information: 11th Street Studios, Atlanta, GA; D2 Music Studios, Atlanta, GA; Doppler Studios, Atlanta, GA; Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Patchwerk Studios, Atlanta, GA; PMCK Studios, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Roc The Mic Studios, New York, NY; The Black Room, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: Ben Watts.
Arranger: L.O.S. DaMaestro.
Nobody could accuse R&B torch singer Trey Songz of ADD. From the intro of his third record, READY, Trey is focused on seduction, sometimes sensual to the level of sex-crazed, sometimes vulnerable, but always swaggering. Songs like "I Invented Sex" and "Neighbors Know My Name" are as straightforward and brash as their titles, but he also proves he is not too proud to beg as on "Does He Do It" (although even that narrows to a list of his many charms). Luckily, his silken voice backs it up, as he (mostly) eschews the auto-tune fad and wraps his early-`90s new jack style around the slick, soulful sounds.
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