Intended to be a dance friendly pop record ["Bangin' ass record" in his words], What You're Looking For is intended to be all golden rollerskates and fabulousness rolled into a very sleek package.
Here's how my review will work. All of the tracks will be judged individually; cohesion will determine the grade of the album later. Obvious factors like singing ability and the instrumental of the song will be included as well.
# of tracks- 10
# of interludes- 4
Total time of album- 41:46
Interludes will be acknowledged with an "( I )" next to the number of the track that has the interlude.
( I )1. "The Call"- For someone who claimed to be an elderly black lady in a past life, Belew is giving some Tamar Braxton level sass, honey.
2. "Just Come On In"- The album kicks in with some hardcore/aggressive percussion. Already sold until the song has its synth parts of the instrumental remind me of "Move Ya Body" by Nina Sky. That aside, his persona is the one taking the wheel of this song. While not terrible, Cody has done better than this. This does serve as the type of uptempo selection some of his fans insisted on him having. So it's an aggressive Catch-22; more or less.
3. "What You're Looking For"- This song is some Donna Summer realness (I want to be able to rollerskate after listening to this; or be on a reboot of Soul Train with him as the musical guest. Whichever is easier.) If Belew had to describe himself with a song, this is it. He's so in his element on this cut as this is some of his cleanest singing to date. It's totally the album brief and one of the best tracks on the album.
4. "We Are Ready"- I couldn't help but sense a mix of Gospel and New Jack Swing with the sexual impurity of "Miami Vice" (Yes, I can say/write some eye-popping profound shit sometimes. No, I refuse to change that.) A bit of a high concept sound that can be made with other sounds...that involve creaking; and a bed; if I need to spell it out, you have issues. A nice song that was worthy to be on the album.
( I )5. "Power Hour"- The crackly 40s/50s radio style of this interlude plays into the throwback/vintage appreciation this album has.
6. "Great Expectations"- This is Southern style funk not attempted in an album since Outkast's 2006 effort, Idlewild and its song "Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me)". Really immersive funk that in a church devoted solely to music like this, this song would be the equivalent of the Lord's Prayer; no service goes without this being recited. The fact he attempted a sound like this shows how diverse he can really be.
7. "You Make Me Wanna"- This just so happens to be the lead single off of this album. Released around late July/early August, the song has Belew's charisma and sex appeal ooze from the song. Reminiscent of "Faith" era George Michael but with twice the sex appeal, Belew's debut post Voice single was surprisingly minced by fans of his on YouTube. Their consensus was that the tempo and the song didn't live up to his tenure on The Voice. I call bullshit on that. This song has everything the viewing audience of The Voice came to know of Cody. Signature singing, personality and a hint at an inner sex monster is fully represented in this track. This and the title track are the best songs so far.
8. "You Gotta"- The song has a very 90s R&B flair to it. Reminiscent of a slower SWV song, this cut is one his most alluring efforts. This joins the title track and "You Make Me Wanna" as the best songs of the album so far.
( I )9. "Sugar (PT. I)"- This one breaks my heart. I think this should've been a full song. This had the sexiest instrumental on the album and personally, it felt like a waste of a II part interlude. Still, his inner sex monster knows how to take the wheel.
10. "It Feels Good (To Love You)"- At first, I thought this would be a really haunting/captivating song set at a dangerously slow tempo [What I mean is, think to when I posted songs by Kelis that need to be on The Voice; "Suspended" works only because it's so captivating. Anything less than that and it would've sucked]. Then it registered as a power ballad. Oh good Lord, this had me worried but then I remembered that even though it's not a "Your Eyes Are Fireflies" ballad, slower songs seem to be his strongest set. It played out better than I hoped, ,but flirting with the power ballad line isn't something I would suggest Belew do personally.
11. "Give Me Your Love"- A distinctive groove is est. very early on, but I couldn't quite discern if it was late 80s or mid 90s inspired. Despite that, this song also lets Belew's inner sex monster take the wheel and it serves very well as it blends in with the other cuts on the album. Very nice singing and this is mastered subtlety with just enough hints of carnal know-how.
12. "This Is The End"- A "Your Eyes Are Fireflies" type of ballad; as in, it is motherfucking glorious. I seriously imagined this as Cody's reworking of Adele's "Someone Like You". The piano workings of this are something of a precious beauty. Vocally, this is one of his strongest songs if not the strongest of the second half of this album.
( I )13. "Sugar (PT. II)"- Ugh...another heartbreaking reminder that this should've been a full song. At least there's a "Behind The Music" feel to it as he gets his relatable/professorial side on. The word "superstar" has never sounded better.
14. "Down and Dirty"- The spoken part of the intro felt like a bit of a misfire for Belew ("Traitor! Burn him!" Let me explain...) it sounded like a Madonna intro concept c. Hard Candy. Nothing particularly distinctive that services Belew well, which shouldn't happen. As the song progresses it seems like this is his sex monster driving again, but with Belew tightening the leash and being in more blatant control of it. Then it ends with a pleasantly bombastic M.I.A. c. "Bucky Done Gun" shouting fit. Talk about a way to end the album on a high note.
OVERALL Grade: A- If it wasn't for personal irks of the slight hints at miscasting and "Sugar" not being a full song, this would've garnered an A. However, it is undeniable that the sheer versatility of varied decade inspired songs, kickass singing and Belew's sex appeal being highlighted more than once that What You're Looking For lives up to its name.
**************FRIENDLY REMINDER/SHAMELESS PLUG***************
Apart from albums, the online store for www.codybelew.com offers t-shirts and pillowcases and the main website has tour dates to see if Belew will be all up in your hood soon!
Follow him on Twitter @CodyBelew ; instagram.com/codybelew ; facebook.com/codybelew and see his duet with Meghan Linsey "Baby, Get Out" on his YouTube channel.
Also, check out his version of "We Are The World" known as "Say Love" which he did for Heifer International. Unless otherwise noted, the 0.99 cent song has its proceeds go right to Heifer in its fight to eradicate hunger and poverty.
Yes, I just shamelessly plugged ALL of that. No, I am not a "stan". Yes, episodes 3 and 4 of The Voice are still being recapped here. Chill out.