Everybody’s has a favorite love song…You know the one that as a teen you lay up against the speaker, on the phone past bedtime, and baby talk with you high school crush with. If you were in school in the 80’s and 90’s you know exactly what I’m talking about. The quiet storm records that helped define what it was to be young and in love. Keke Wyatt was definitely listening and her current offering, “Who Knew?”, revitalizes R&B in a way that we haven’t heard in a minute.
Everybody knows of Ms. Wyatt for one of two reasons. Either it’s her now infamous domestic violence episode with her now ex-husband or her soul stirring remake with Avant of the classic Rene’ and Angela slow jam “My First Love”. All but a shoe in for super-stardom with her cameo and debut appearance on this record all but made her a shoe in to take the reins in the next generation as one of the leaders of the new R&B school, but a string of marital issues and setback on label deals gone wrong forced Keke into oblivion…seemingly. Backed by contemporary jazz powerhouse Shanachie Records, Ms. Wyatt offers a stellar reintroduction to the listeners in “Who Knew?”
The album starts off with the title track, a smooth ode to the new found possibilities of an unexpected love. The smooth texture of the album only serves as a well crafted canvas for Wyatt’s powerhouse voice, definitely a rarity in the currently climate, especially since more focus is placed on artist packaging than actual vocal talent (pause). She can belt out rifts without effort and her voice is a sweet as it is strong throughout the first 3 or 4 songs of the album including “Without You” and “Never Do It Again”. The defining moments of the album begin with “Daydreaming”, a slinky love jam that is sonic, mesmerizing, and by far the best song on the album. Here on this song she displays an uncanny ability to be playful and loose on the record, but still captivate the listen with that voice. The slow grind doesn’t stop there as “So Confused” will easily bring back healthy and positive comparisons to Faith Evans or SWV’s Coko and “Weakest” is a fiery candle lighter for sure. Keke reaches her paramount on “Peace on Earth”, a solid remake of a Rachelle Ferrell song that addresses the social responsibilities of taking care of home. Again all of the songs are definitely structured to give her the floor and she doesn’t disappoint.
The album’s only true misstep is the cliché “Getting It”, an up-tempo song that of course makes an attempt for Wyatt to garner some kind of club play. It’s not that the song is bad, but within the context of so many slow to mid-tempo songs about love and its trials; it’s definitely out of place. Outside of that, many listeners won’t hear any groundbreaking subjects on the record and some that are just out of place completely (belting out about how her man THUGS her on “Got Me One (A Good Man)” is flat out cringe-worthy), but outside of that the album is very much well executed.
Keke Wyatt did not break any ground with “Who Knew?”, but I don’t think that it was the intent. It is probably one of the most fundamentally sound R&B albums I’ve heard in years. Her voice is built for this type of music and she exercises her vocal range as well as, if not better than anybody that you have in the current radio rotation. This album definitely deserves addition to you slow jam playlist. Welcome back Keke…now if you excuse me…I’m going to lay next to my speaker…I have a phone call I need to make.