Audio Mixer: Serban Ghenea.
Recording information: Eightysevenfourteen Studios, Los Angeles, CA; the Record Plant, Hollywood, CA.
Taking over from the underproductive singer Sean Kingston, the duo R. City burst out of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to become reggae-pop's new best friend, but it was merely a shift from the background to the foreground as these siblings had already written or produced hits for Kingston ("Take You There"), Iyaz ("Replay"), Rihanna ("Pour It Up"), and Miley Cyrus ("We Can't Stop"). Their solo career launched in earnest with the Top Ten single "Locked Away" featuring Adam Levine, and that Wyclef-sized bit of empowerment might have clouded the duo's judgment, as this 2015 album rolls out surrounding the hit with a handful of like-minded midtempo songs, including the sweet "Checking for You," which offers a St. Thomas-styled endearment with "When I ring your cell/Just making sure everything is blessed." Shuffle these great, but bunched together, songs into the mix and What Dreams Are Made Of is a kinetic, infectious success, landing on an island somewhere between the Fugees and Major Lazer with all the political power of the former ("Live by the Gun," "Slave to the Dollar") and all the "flash" of the latter ("Broadway" plus "Locked Away," which is bold enough to borrow a melody from the Captain & Tennille). Roots reggae rhythms with big bass beats drive the mammoth highlight "Our Story," then a spirited guest appearance from Tarrus Riley makes "Crazy Love" a keeper and a prime candidate for a cover version from Rihanna or Gwen Stefani. Sunshine bright and full of life, What Dreams Are Made Of is an aptly titled release for fans of Rihanna, Stefani, Akon, and such, but it's the strong songwriting, vivid rhymes, and singalong choruses that will keep it in rotation. ~ David Jeffries