Top critical review
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Impressive enough, though not perfect
on May 22, 2007
Tank is yet another early 00s artist to return back to the music business. This year has been full of what I pen as R&B "Resurrections". Musiq returned after a four-year absense with his chart-topping LUVANMUSIQ, Joe returned after a four year absent with his Grammy worthy AIN'T NOTHIN' LIKE ME, and now we have Tank, returning solidly with his third album, SEX, LOVE & PAIN. The difference between Tank and Joe or Musiq is that Tank has never had success just come to him. He is an underrated adult R&B singer. Worse is adult R&B isn't what's truly selling in the R&B industry anymore - hip-hop is predominant via more contemporary-centered artists such as "young boy" Chris Brown, Lloyd, Omarion, Usher, and so on. However, with his moderate radio hit, the exceptional "Please Don't Go", which at the time of writing this review was #3 on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B Singles Chart, Tank may have a chance to get the praise and the success that he's never recieved before. No, SEX, LOVE & PAIN is no masterpiece, and it doesn't for me stack up to be among the very best R&B albums of 2007 (though it is solid & good), but it is worthy of success by all means.
The album opens up deceptively. The first track is listed to be "Coldest" when in reality there is a hidden introductory track that is named after the title. I wish the executives at Blackground had of seperated "Sex, Love & Pain" and "Coldest" because "Sex, Love & Pain" is more than just an interlude. Here, the songwriting is top-notch and the bombastic, energized refrain with lovely vocals via Tank and exceptional background vocals makes for a great number that didn't have to be embedded within another track. Just as well, "Coldest" ends up being a fine track with great songwriting. At the end, "Coldest" is a bit all over the place where its form is concerned, but I chalk that up as Tank being a truly ambitious songwriter wanting to do more than just the set rules of R&B songwriting. Overall, SEX, LOVE & PAIN is off to a fast start.
"I'm Coming Home" isn't as strong as "Coldest", but it is yet another strong track. The sample utilized here makes the production work and once again Tank's vocal performance is great. "My Body", track three, has a new-jack, classicist 90's R&B feel to it, making light of restrained, "sensual" sounding grooves and such (think Freddie Jackson, Keith Sweat, early R. Kelly). It is solid, though not nearly as remarkable as "One" or the ubiquitous highlight of SEX, LOVE & PAIN "Please Don't Go". Who would've thought "Please Don't Go" would become the radio hit that it has? It is the perfect single that transcends any labels like that of "adult contemporary" or "adult R&B"; it is what it is, a strong, sincere, well written R&B Single. The production is great, the verses are soulful, Tank sounds fantastic, the background vocals are warm, and everything is perfect. The best track of SEX, LOVE & PAIN ladies and gentlemen is "Please Don't Go".
Don't get me wrong though, "Please Don't Go" isn't the only strong track. As I've said "Coldest" and "I'm Coming Home" in particular are good too. "I Hate U" is another one of my personal favorites with a very catchy, if blunt hook. "Heartbreaker" feels like Tank has relied a bit too much on the adult contemporary, sensual R&B sounds of the 1980s and early 90s that it sounds a bit "anachronistic" as opposed to truly fresh. "Who Dat", which is stronger than "Heartbreaker" still sounds a bit dated, but it works more effectively than "Heartbreaker". Unfortunately, Tank oversings here and makes "Who Dat" sound a bit counterproductive. It's these problems with SEX, LOVE & PAIN for me that inhibit me from rating it higher; Joe pulled off the adult-contemporary/"grown-folks" R&B notion flawlessly on AIN'T NOTHIN LIKE ME while making it a successful contemporary album as well. Tank struggles a bit and it's blatantly obvious on tracks such as "Heartbreaker" and "Who Dat". "When" also feels like more of the same, a constant quibble I have towards the less exciting numbers from SEX, LOVE & PAIN.
"Wedding Song" is the very worst track on SEX, LOVE & PAIN and making everything relevant, it is the track that you probably will skip over. "My Heart" makes up for "Wedding Song", but it isn't nearly as great as "Please Don't Go". After an obvious loss of momentum towards the middle and end of the album, Tank makes up for it with the great "I Love U", perhaps the best since "Please Don't Go". Up for debate is if final track "I Love Them Girls" produced and featuring Timbaland, truly works with Tank as the vocalist. I think Tank's intentions here were to rid of his adult R&B leanings and show off a younger, more contemporary Tank. I personally think it only works to an extent, and perhaps an inspiration adult-contemporary ballad may have been a more appropriate close as opposed to the slightly-awkward Timbaland helmed track.
It's not a bad album, though I also don't think it is great either. There have been a number of truly great R&B albums in 2007 and to call Tank's the very best of the best would be an overstatement. It works very well and I'm hoping that Tank can at least see some moderate success with it if not paramount success. 3 stars.