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ALBUM REVIEW: Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It

With everyone so busy ripping off T-Pain ripping off Roget Troutman, everyone forgot about the other big trend of the past year – ripping off Mark Ronson ripping off Motown. A few weeks after B’s little sister re-lit the torch, Raphael Saadiq has grabbed it and carried it across the finish line for The Way I See It, a tribute to Detroit and Philly’s founding fathers of Soul.Honestly, with Saadiq being a thoroughly capable songwriter in his own right, it’s a touch disappointing to hear him push his own unique style to the side for a concept album that other artists have made their own innovative versions of lately (see: Gnarls Barkley). With that said, what The Way I See It lacks in innovation it makes up in general quality. “100 Yard Dash” is so pitch-perfect in its authenticity that it doesn’t much matter that isn’t a Master’s Thesis in Pro-Tools.Saadiq’s interpretation of the classic sound comes off as sincere (or at least very well studied) and rather than try to revise the decidedly old-school sound with 808s and sampling, he sticks almost entirely to a simple array of instruments and techniques. If Saadiq and Doc Brown hopped in a time machine and went back 45 years or so, he easily could’ve sold most of these exact songs to The Four Tops (“Love That Girl”), The Supremes (“100 Yard Dash”) or The Stylistics (“Oh Girl”).A few moments stray from the album’s lane by going against the grain and trying to pull in concepts that are out of place but they aren’t huge errors. Throwing Jay-Z on the remix to “Oh Girl” is also a bit contrary to tradition but hey, it’s Hov. His performance meets Saadiq a little more than halfway so as a bonus remix instead of the song’s original presentation, it’s a fun addition.Ultimately, The Way I See It relies heavily on the listener’s academic appreciation of his goal and thus can very quickly turn into an “all or nothing” project. Without a built-in ear for decades old R&B, the tracks may come off as boring or misguided but on the other hand, it isn’t as if his references are particularly obscure. Those who have the disposition for Saadiq’s trip down memory lane will be glad they went – that won’t be a large majority of the public, but for that crowd, there’s a perfectly serviceable Ne-Yo album this week as well. Love That Girl – Raphael Saadiq

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