Groove Theory: Groove Theory Album Review

A major difference between Wilson’s beats and rap producers’ beats is a complete rejection of samples. While the rhythm elements on “Tell Me” are eerily reminiscent of the Mary Jane Girls’ 80s classic “All Night Long,” the song, like any other song on slot theory, combines programmed beats and live instrumentation. Session musicians, especially producer Darryl Brown, whom Larrieux calls the group’s third member in the liner notes, can be heard throughout the album. Brown’s bass and guitar touches on “Come Home” offset Wilson’s thunderous drum programming, underlining the hope in Larrieux’s dejected writing. “The street will never love you like I do / So leave that life behind and come home / Come home / Baby, come home,” she begs.

Brown’s nimble hands also accompany “Ride” and “Hey U,” Groove Theory’s take on G-funk. Larrieux’s reticence short-circuits the first. When she sings she wants to go for a ride with a lover, she really means get in a car and turn a key. There is no adventure, escape or allusion to the statement, a far cry from Adina Howard beckoning insubtly “Do you want to drive?” or dr. Dre rolls into the four with 16 switches. The slow-burning “Hey U” is better at laughing, Larrieux’s painful melodies and breathing harmonies soar over Wilson and Brown’s sauntering, hydraulic beat. “All you have to say is hey you/hey you,” she cooed, stretching the embarrassment of seeing a rejected ex in public into a graceful resignation.

although Groove Theory‘s fusions never feel as daring as the world-building that takes place on other syncretic R&B albums from the mid-’90s like Meshell Ndegeocello’s Plantation lullabiesSade’s Love DeluxeD’Angelo’s Brown sugarand Janet Jackson’s janet., there is no friction from all the mixing. Groove Theory envisioned R&B as a tentpole genre that could accommodate jazz scats, funk grooves, and rap edges without conflict. It’s no coincidence that the terms most often used to describe the group are “cool” and “smooth.”

That lack of tension turns out to be as much a feature as it is a bug. Larrieux sometimes seems so determined to avoid histrionics and melodrama that she underestimates her most passionate writing. “10 Minute High” and “Boy at the Window” are about a teenage girl who is addicted to a drug and a boy who idolizes a womanizing, absent father, but the characters are so tragic they don’t feel real. And Larrieux’s restrained vocals suck away the urgency numbers. She clearly had Sade songs like “Tar Baby” and “Maureen” in her head (and probably some Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye songs too), but she hadn’t learned to handle melancholy and darkness rather than just using them. to call.

Groove Theory’s arch R&B found no support among listeners or their peers. “Tell Me” went gold, as did the album, but most modern records of the group are steeped in nostalgia, the music invoked as a gateway to adolescence and young adulthood. “‘Tell me’ IMMEDIATELY takes you back to the 90s,” Panama Jackson wrote in 2018 for The Root, a quintessential hymn. The group’s musical legacy is also sparse. “Tell Me” was sampled by Sadat X, G -Unit and Wale, and Solange, Hikaru Utada and Kelela have cited Larrieux as an influence, but Groove Theory eventually became a marginal record in a decade when all kinds of R&B reigned supreme. A faint line can be drawn from Groove Theory‘s hushed sensuality and hard beats to Little Dragon, the xx and R&B duos like Denitia and Sene and Lion Babe, but it would be imposed rather than detected.

That small footprint is partly a product of the group’s breakup as Larrieux left creative differences behind and launched her quirky solo career. Wilson later recorded a second Groove Theory album with vocalist Makeda Davis that re-imagined the group as radio-friendly, but that remodel—which was shelved and later leaked—only underscores the charms of the original lineup. That succession of events and occasional reunion concerts has prompted interviewers to regularly ask Larrieux and Wilson about the possibility of a real Groove Theory sequel, a question both artists eagerly answered. But it’s probably more fitting that an album designed to evade radio and commerce lives on in memories, detached from the music industry and canons but added to bodies that, on a distant commute or club night or first kiss, felt and still feel. , the groove.

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