The City of Jazz and Blues isn’t as well known for its propagation of R&B, but native resident James, already a burgeoning writer and performer (credits include Britney Spears and Chris Brown), may be the very voice to spread the good word to the masses. James offers an impossibly silky falsetto (mostly auto-tune-free) that glosses over an impressive variety of beats.
The whispering “Soldier” kicks things off with a deceiving ensemble-like approach and intricate synth beat, but it’s the almost-a cappella title track that best exemplifies James’ range. “Made to Love” blooms slowly throughout the track into a climax of heartfelt bliss. The gospel-ish “Sign of Rain” slows things down to a trickle, while “Powerless” bumps on a soft club beat that offers a fresh, adrenaline-pumping break from James’ (sometimes sickly) sweet swoon. But by this point in the album, lines like “Your love, your love/ Leaves me powerless” leave little to the imagination.
Made to Love matches James’ talent with his potential; at its core, it’s a par introduction, but fails to yield anything groundbreaking. Most of the album, as foreshadowed by Christianly posed publicity stills, plays off predictably sugarcoated themes of love. Still, James justly transposes his natural flare for soul to his own craft. He’s got the basics down, next step is to coax something novel out of it. With Bourbon Street as his backyard, and a knack for writing hooks, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
By Jory Spadea