Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Passion, Pain & Pleasure is the fourth studio album by American R&B singer Trey Songz, released on September 14, 2010. It is the follow-up to his commercial breakthrough Ready (2009). Production for the album took place during March to July 2010 and was handled by several record producers, including his mentor Troy Taylor, Bryan-Michael Cox, Stargate, and Mario Winans, among others.
The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 240,000 copies in its first week. It has produced two singles, including "Can't Be Friends" and Billboard hit "Bottoms Up". Upon its release, Passion, Pain & Pleasure received positive reviews from most music critics. Songz promoted the album via his Summer 2010 tour with R&B singer Monica.
""I'm'a get you naked, baby / My love will drive you crazy." As this lyric from Doorbell illustrates, Trey Songz hasn't strayed far from his US breakthrough album, 2009's Ready, in terms of inspiration for this follow-up. Passion, Pain & Pleasure is very much a record for the bedroom, from the bedroom. With characteristics comparable to the saucier corners of the catalogues of Prince, R Kelly and The-Dream, Tremaine Neverson's fourth long-player is well-positioned within a fairly wide niche, and it's already made a significant mark on charts stateside. But, much like The-Dream's excellent Love King album of this year, it seems destined to remain a below-the-radar release in the UK.
Which, given some of the weak RnB that does cross from the US to these shores, is a big disappointment. Sure, this isn't revolutionary stuff - but neither, really, was the Drake album, Thank Me Later, and that's appeared in several best-of-the-year lists. The skill is in the execution, in the articulation - and Trey is well studied and blessed with some wonderfully smooth vocals. Unlike Drake, he can't switch from a croon to a rap, but there are times when he runs the Canadian vocalist close in terms of tone and texture. The production rarely bursts into fireworks-bright boisterousness, ensuring that the whole flows with appealing ease. When spotlights are shined, they fall upon guest-starring tracks - the in-demand Nicki Minaj is her slightly unhinged self on Bottoms Up, a breath of fresh air but nevertheless starting to sound formulaic now that she's dropping bars on so many other records; and Drake snarls with nasally menace through the final third of Unusual, immediately elevating the track to new levels of aggression. There's the sense that a conceptual framework is at play throughout - the interludes act as introductions to new chapters in the record's run-time, and lyrical motifs are repeated. But this isn't a collection anyone will need to listen to from start to finish in order to get the idea. Love Faces and Massage telegraph the key traits of what is to follow - in-depth descriptions of how our protagonist is going to pleasure his other half, set to silken production courtesy of the likes of Swizz Beatz and Troy Taylor (Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin collaborator Taylor has acted as a mentor of sorts to Trey ever since a meeting back in 2001).
It might sound like a cavalcade of clichés on paper, but with punchy couplets and shimmering production, Trey Songz here furthers his reputation an artist head and shoulders above many a lover-man peer." - BBC
"I can't help but feel a certain personal connection to Trey Songz. You see, much like Songz, I'm an extraordinarily muscular young black man with a golden voice whose mere presence causes women to orgasm. Ok, so I'm actually I'm a white guy with a voice even auto-tune couldn't fix. No, instead Trey and I both began our careers at the same time - he was swearing I Gotta Make It at the same time I was sweating through internships, and by the time he released his sophomore album Trey Day, his true breakthrough, I had just begun writing the album reviews on DJBooth's hallowed pages. I've watched Trey become a man in the r&b game, to some extend have become a man alongside him, and so can't help but feel a certain sense of satisfaction in watching him become a true star on his new album Passion, Pain & Pleasure
While Usher refuses to relinquish the overall r&b crown, thanks to both to the fall of Chris Brown and a slew of top shelf guest features, over the past year Songz has become, without doubt, the face of young r&b. While his previous effort Ready often found him imitating his older idols, on Passion, Pain & Pleasure it finally sounds like he's stepped into his own. In fact, I began my review of Ready with one question, "Who is Trey Songz?" Now, finally, we know.
Trey Songz is god's gift to the charts, and liquor companies. The last time I was in Vegas all you could hear was the steady hum of slot machines and a seemingly never ending chorus of Say Aah, so of course Songz went right back to the well for PP&P's lead single, Bottom's Up. (Note: It doesn't look nearly as cool as Passion, Pain & Pleasure, but I'm already tired of typing it out, so from now on the album's PP&P.) Like its predecessor Say Aah, Songz crafts a melodically light, alcohol drenched ode to, well, alcohol that should only further cement his reputation as r&b's best club hit singer, even if Nicki did completely upstage him with a psychotic guest verse. Impressively, and tellingly, Bottom's Up is PP&P's sole club anthem. It would have been so easy for him to simply make 18 variations of Bottom's Up, but the rest of the album is much more purely r&b. The electronically up-tempo You Just Need Me, and to a lesser extent Red Lipstick, are the closest we get to pop again, but they're relative rarities. What's missing from PP&P is actually more important than what it contains; gone are the painfully juvenile panderings to the teen set like LOL Smiley Face. Instead, Trey has become a man, and this is a man's album.
Trey Songz is a babymaker. As he says in the intro to Unusual, "I wouldn't be me if I didn't get a little nasty," and sure enough PP&P is filled with more casual sex than spring break in Cabo. Since I brought it up, we might as well stick with Unusual, a "anytime, anywhere" anthem that brings in Drake for what's sure to become a steamy future single. But Unusual is unusually up-tempo for a real baby maker, so if you're truly looking to, in the immortal words of R. Kelly, bump n' grind, you'd be hard pressed to surpass the bouncing Doorbell , and if you can put aside the unintentional comedy of a title like Love Faces, Songz vocally proves he's a master of the genre by showing restraint in all the right places on Faces. Songz can't yet touch his idol D'Angelo in the infant creation department, but from the sparkling Message to the minimal Pleasure, he's closer than ever before.
Songz, unfortunately, is not a particularly deep artist. Although his versatile voice is tailor made for bedroom sessions and black out partying, it lacks the depth, the hint of grit, to make any song truly emotional. It's no surprise then that PP&P's weakest moments come on regret-filled pleas for forgiveness like Please Return My Call and the haunted Unfortunate. Can't Be Friends might just be the best break up record we ever hear from Songz, but even then his voice lacks that true heartache that singers like Lyfe Jennings and Anthony Hamilton can convey so powerfully. Still, these aren't so much complaints as thing that hold back PP&P from perfection; perfection that, if this album is any indication, we might hear someday from Songz. Someday." - DJBooth
Personnel: Patrick "Guitarboy" Hayes (guitar).
Recording information: D2 Music Studios, Atlanta, GA; Daddy's House Recording Studio; Doppler Studios, Atlanta, GA; Nightbird Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Skylight Studios, Inc., New York, NY; Songbook Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: Christian Lantry.
Through the release of his third album, 2009's Ready, Trey Songz appeared to be an up-and-comer poised for top-tier R&B stardom. A fast succession of three Top Ten R&B singles later, that promise was fulfilled. Rather than squeeze every drop from Ready and take a break or open a clothing boutique, Trey chose to build on his momentum. The week Passion, Pain & Pleasure was released, he was on the R&B chart in six forms, whether as a lead or featured artist, and two of those slots were occupied by his own new singles. The shamelessly mindless "Bottoms Up," a thematic sequel to "Say Ahh" that features Nicki Minaj, was already in the Top Ten, and the hushed Mario Winans collaboration "Can't Be Friends," one of 2010's finest ballads, had touched the Top 30. The remainder of Passion, Pain & Pleasure likewise does not stray very far from Ready. After all, only a year separates their release dates, and they are both dominated by Troy Taylor productions. The early singles highlight Passion's first half, which also features the classy pleader "Please Return My Call" and playfully libidinous bedroom ballads like "Massage" and "Love Faces." The album's back half doesn't boast an outlandish moment like "I Invented Sex," either, but it is the strongest, most varied side of a Trey Songz album, just about flawless. It smoothly shifts through several moods. The opulent slow jam "Red Lipstick" rivals anything in a similar mode produced or recorded by the-Dream. Throughout the in-heat "Doorbell," Trey rides lapping/swaying percussion with impressive agility. The sparse, chilling "Unfortunate" is the most affecting post-808s & Heartbreak song yet, wounded and spiteful without coming across as hateful. "Blind," a somber narrative, demonstrates how Trey -- who, for all his lyrical boasting, displays considerable vocal aptitude without flaunting it -- is as comfortable in front of a band as he is over a beat. ~ Andy Kellman