Reminding us of the state of music and the missing R‘n’B of the last decade, Jagged Edge gives us a much needed refresher over a mid-tempo beat in their “Intro.” This album is a sequel to their second and bestselling album, J.E. Heartbreak. Somehow, Jagged Edge seems to have both picked up where they left off and started over with their new album J.E. Heartbreak II.
The recognizable talents of lead crooners, Brandon and Brian Casey start off the highly-anticipated album.The band sings about the women they can’t live without in “Future.” Brandon sings “I feel like I’m barely treading water / on some quicksand / rising to my knees / when you’re not around.” The lyrics are so detailed and well written; I knew without checking the credits that this was written and produced by none other than Bryan-Michael Cox.
In “Familiar,” I was excited to hear another familiar voice, Jermaine Dupri. He has faded into the background these past years, but back in the 90s, he was the person who gave Jagged Edge their first record deal. This song, like so many of the songs in this album, is about a woman. The band is true to modern times, setting the song in a nightclub and then throwing in popular scenarios like having a drink spilled on you, which is sure to get the attention of the twenty-something crowd.
After leaving the club with Jagged Edge, they took me to the radio with their highly-played single, “Hope.” This song made me scream when I first heard it months ago. That may seem like an overreaction, but it’s been years since I heard these four voices on a radio station. The band sings “Hope she don’t just see a thug when she sees me / Hope she can see all this love that I’m filled with / All I wanna do is, all I wanna do is / Came up with this little plan / Put her hope back in a man.” The song could have easily remained under hip-hop’s shadow. But thanks to the ‘Love Music’ movement, ‘thugs’ in every neighborhood have made this their love anthem of 2014.
The boys make it very clear in this album that they’re not looking for an ordinary woman. No, she has to be someone who fits in their lives and is “just like family,” as they sing in their fifth track, “Things I Do for You.” Of course, if a woman does meet their criteria they’ll want to make her “Love Come Down.” It’s an upbeat track that begins with a simple, snap-worthy beat. Finally, the band utters smooth introductory runs which lead to the catchy chorus. In the chorus, they sing “Imma do all I can / To make your love come down.”
Harmony galore blessed my ears in the beautiful ballad, “It’s Been You.” A song that tells a story of a lover that has always been just under your nose, it may cause you to write a mental list of all the people you knew as a child. You’ll think, maybe it’s him…maybe it’s her. It’s a great song. The album’s sound takes a turn with the electronic bass in “Wanna Be (Romeo).” Before you know it, they’re already “Getting over You.” On top of an old school composition, the band sings of being done with a relationship in this track.
“Ready” has more techno sounds, which the band’s harmonious vocals slightly submerge. It makes for an interesting combination of sounds. In the next track, “Make it Clear,” I decided that the electronic underlay was a J.E. Heartbreak II trademark. Using that embellishment and very contemporary lyrics, Jagged Edge makes another promise to a lady. In this song, J.E. sings, “Imma be here forever and ever.” It was a bit of a pause moment for me, since fifteen years ago, they were asking someone to meet them at the altar. After a brief head scratch, I continued my listening and learned the life lessons they were all taught by their parents in “No Half Steppin’.”
After hearing the last track, “Posters (We Stay on One),” it’s clear to me that Jagged Edge worked hard to make a modern R‘n’B album. The rhythm is very ‘now’ and includes slow-motion, southern vocals. This type of sound has become cliche in hip-hop over the years, but this song brought a fresh take on it. It was a brave effort not to feature any rap artists, like they have been forced to do in the past. The band explained in the album’s intro, “I think the state of R‘n B is insecure. The labels and radio spins reflect that unless you have a rapper at the beginning, the middle and the end of your R‘n’B song; It ain’t gonna really get as much attention.” But after playing this album from to start to finish numerous times, I can definitely call J.E. Heartbreak II an attention-grabber.