The neo-soul star is back with her eagerly anticipated album Dream, which sees the singer chart her current life as a single lady
Gentlemen, R&B/neo-soul superstar Angie Stone is single, and she’s singing about it on her brand new album Dreams. Indeed, Stone is keen to remind us that: “I am single. I have never done an album where I was single. I do not have a love interest. I don’t have anything to pull from anyone who makes me cry, makes me unhappy and makes me laugh.” So who is providing the inspiration coming from on her new album? Well, that appears to have been the role of Walter Milsapp III, who has been given the task to produce Stone’s seventh album, her first since 2012. In fact, its down to Milsapp’s persuasion that Stone entered the recording the studio at all: as reported by Billboard earlier this year, following a period of disillusionment with the music business (plus a very public split with her partner, as well as a rather nasty public altercation with her daughter, which involved a stay in policy custody), Stone was ready to call it quits. Fortunately for us, Milsapp had other plans for Stone, getting her back into the studio to record her rather excellent new album, Dreams.
The album opens on the superbly funky ‘Dollar Bill’, which sets the scene for the rest of the album: Stone is ‘not searching for Mr Right, right now’, and has ‘no-strings attached’. It’s a particularly funky track, complete with a thumping bass line, produced excellently by Milsapp. The sentiment Stone expresses here is revisited throughout the album: on ‘Magnet’ she sings that ‘he told me he loved me too, but his kisses never felt sincere’, revisiting the trauma of her prior relationship once more. Stone’s self-reflection is at its most deep and poignant here; once again, Milsapp has laid down an excellently produced track allowing for Stone’s trademark husky vocals to shine through.
The lead single from Dream, ‘2 Bad Habits’, tells a similar story: Stone once again reflects on her heartbreak, describing her love for her former partner as a bad habit, one that she is trying to kick, presumably by singing about it to the rest of the world. That said, on the title track, Stone reveals her fantasies about a future love, paving a pathway out of the emotional torment she’s experienced in the past year. Throughout, as you might expect, Stone sounds incredible, her voice seemingly as strong and powerful as ever. Her voice is most impressive on ‘Quits’, one of the many highlights of this album. The song is by far the funkiest track on the album, and is another superb production from Milsapp. Stone is most impressive here; her voice is so powerful, yet so tightly controlled, and is such a delight to hear on a danceable up-tempo number like this. Indeed, ‘Quits’ allows her to show off her sassy side, sending a clear message to her former partner that their relationship is through, and that Stone is back as an independent, impressive woman.
Another standout track from Dreams is ‘Thinking It Over’, another introspective mid-tempo number that Stone excels on. Again the production is tight, with the guitar licks a particular delight, with that along with the lyric reminiscent of Bobby Womack’s ‘If You Think You’re Lonely Now’, with both songs being equally heartbreaking. Indeed, the heartbreak continues on ‘Forget About You’, as well as on the duet with Dave Hollister. Interestingly, the narrative of the album shifts on their duet: instead of leaving the past where it belongs, Stone and Hollister are pitted together as former lovers who consider the implications of rekindling that old flame. It’s a nice interlude to the rest of the album, with both vocalists complementing each other nicely.
Overall, Dream is a solid effort from Angie Stone, whose absence on the music scene is thankfully over. Stone remains at the top of her game vocally, and is not letting her rather tumultuous year spoil things, instead channeling her emotional state into her fine new album. If the album’s final song, ‘Didn’t Break Me’, is anything to go by, Stone is over her last relationship and looking to the future. Let’s hope that future has more tasty releases like this waiting for her.