Grammy Award-winning American R&B singer Chrisette Michele is back with her new album Milestone. This will be the singer’s fifth album, but her first LP release on her own record label Rich Hipster via Caroline/Capital Records, since her departure from long time record label Motown Records.
Those who are familiar with Michele’s work will know her to have a similar style to Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan and Janelle Monae. Milestone however leaves the soul sound she has always had on her previous albums, and has developed into a very mature R&B album for grownups.
The inspiration of the album comes from her former manager now fiancé Doug “Biggs” Ellison, who is also the executive producer on the project. The album is a mix of love songs, which is not unfamiliar for Michele, however there is a vast range of urban tones from start to finish.
The album starts strong with an easy pleaser “Diamond Letter”, which is a non-offensive, not over produced catchy R&B song; a song placed on the album to ease people in. Then Michele drops her first hip-hop/trap track “Steady” which shows she has as much fierceness as other songstress in the game. However the lyrics are anything but original as she boasts about her status, wealth and property, making “Steady” that one song every singer eventually does to show how well they have done.
However Michele explains that the song originally came about as she was playing around with lyrics after hearing the track during production. She wasn’t sure whether or not to include it on her album as she wasn’t sure how her fans would react to her experimenting with the sound, but received overwhelming support and love for it after she previewed it.
The majority of the middle section of the album is filled with love songs such as “Meant To Be” featuring Meet Sims and “To The Moon” which are just some of the tracks dedicated to her fiancé. The songs take a realistic take on relationships with Michele singing “You’ll be gone, all your mistakes, love ain’t perfect, but that’s okay” showing a relationship takes work.
“Unbreakable” is the poppiest song on the album, and it shows the fight she had to go through to prove her love to others. Explaining about the song she says, “I just wrote this song to say to everybody who may have pulled us apart, our love is unbreakable”. One of the album’s highlights is “Soulmate” as it is an effortless sensual bittersweet song, singing how she is incomplete without her mate. It is a brilliant slow jam that makes you think why aren’t all R&B singers producing something similar.
The closing track (on the standard release) “Reinvent The Wheel” stands as one of Michele’s songs that show her development as a musician. The album as a whole shows the development of the singer and a growth, as she has more input with her content and sound on her own label.
“Reinvent The Wheel” shows and tells everyone she can do what she wants. “I’m not one sound, I am not one voice”, she sings on the track featuring Mali Music. The song has a slow reggae sound where she states she is not a one track pony and has the power to direct and be different from what she is expected, which is also one of the statements she is putting across on the album.
If you are lucky enough to have the deluxe edition you will be treated to an additional six new songs. “My Body” is a sexy song showing Michele’s grown-up, seductive and confident side yet keeping it classy, as she sings about her being more comfortable in her skin.
“Black Girl Magic” is properly the most unrecognisable song by the singer and will be one either you love or hate. The song uses a variety of effects from echoes to chants, with lyrical content that isn’t as deep as her other work but is very playful and fierce, and properly the most fun song for the performer to sing.
The best song out of the six extra songs has to be the hip-hop oriented “Top Of The World” which features rapper Meet Sims again, his second feature on the album. The song has the power to sound like one of your favourite old skool hip-hop jams but annoyingly not enough to pin down which one you are thinking of.
Overall Milestone is a very strong R&B album showing Michele has the creativity and strength to do it on her own. The production and lyrics are to a high quality and appeals to anyone who likes all styles of urban music. Michele has always had the skills to write deep and meaningful lyrics with a lot of honesty and substance.
Although she has gone for a more urban sound with production than her renowned airy soul sound, the content of her lyrics are not affected. Michele does however fall in the trap of having a selection of songs about sex and boasting about her wealth like all artists seem to end up doing, but she is smart enough to not throw it in your face and remain graceful, classy and stylish all at the same time like she always is.
Chrisette Michele’s Milestone is out now, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Wai-Kin Cheng