After two mixtapes that scored him a Grammy nomination, writing songs for Chris Brown (the excellent “Crawl”) and Britney Spears (“Kill The Lights”), and opening up for Beyonce on her Mrs. Carter tour, Luke James is finally releasing his first studio album and it’s a stunner. The self-titled album is varied with an original sound that immediately puts him among the top R&B artists. This is the album that we all wish The Weeknd would record. Luke sings in his gorgeous falsetto much in the same way, but he’s supported by stronger melodies and interesting production.
He opens with “Love XYZ” which sounds like a synthesized rocket preparing for takeoff, while “Dancing In The Dark” has an interesting balance between an 80s groove with a hip hop beat. I rarely pay attention to interludes on albums because they are usually a waste of time, but not here. With voices mostly supplying the beat, “Don’t Do It” has a great drive that Timbaland would be envious of. “TimeX” manages to be a throwback to Motown with its snaps and backup vocals, but still maintains a current sound (harmonica!). The gospel-tinged “Trouble” allows Luke’s voice to soar, then surprises you with its low brass accompaniment. On “The Run”, James shows he can take a typical hip hop bass beat and turn it into something interesting.
Wait til you hear “Exit Wounds” (check it out below). The devastating piano ballad is a serious kiss off to a ex-lover, and Luke’s voice pierces. The word “wound” have never sounded so pretty. And just when you thought Luke couldn’t make you dance, then comes “Expose”, the Prince-esque that’s got one killer groove. There’s not much more to say about “I Want You”, the song that rightfully scored Luke a Grammy nomination a couple years ago. Vocals don’t get better than that.
For the deluxe edition of the album, Luke includes a cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”. If you didn’t think anyone could match, or dare I say, surpass, Sam’s performance on that song, then listen to Luke’s cover (it’s below).
Luke hasn’t created an album full of radio-friendly material, but neither did Frank Ocean, and that turned out pretty dang good for him. Hopefully Luke James’ album becomes a word-of-mouth hit too.
Here’s his cover of “Stay With Me”:
Here’s his new single, “Exit Wounds”: