Over the years Chrisette Michele has made several memorable guest appearances alongside some of hip-hop’s biggest and brightest stars, lending her distinctive voice to songs like Jay-Z’s “Lost One,” Nas’ “Can’t Forget About You,” Ghostface Killah’s “Slow Down” and Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music,” to name a few. Three years have passed since the release of her last album, Let Freedom Reign and now she’s back with every intention of being Better. The 20 song album (deluxe edition) may seem a bit daunting and overwhelming, but a further examination reveals that four of the tracks are short interludes that keep the album moving and hold everything together. And actually listening to the album is even more rewarding.
The album opens with the declarative and upbeat “Be In Love,” which features Chrisette reminding herself that she’s capable of falling in love again despite the troubles that she’s had in the past. “A Couple Of Forevers,” the second track, is a mellow plea that borrows some elements from the classic O’Jays tune “Stairway To Heaven.” The airy “Rich Hipster” and “Love Won’t Leave Me Out” precede the album’s first interlude, with the former featuring a verse from Wale and the latter insisting that there’s love out there for anyone everyone who is open to receiving it — even the most pessimistic, broken and bruised of individuals.
The album’s title track finds Chrisette Michele relinquishing her freedom to Cupid’s whims, which Chrisette is okay with as long she winds up being, you guessed it, Better. Surrendering herself to his will, Michele finds comfort in believing that she’s right where she needs to be even if she’s not at her best at the present moment. Her vocals really sell this song; her characteristic soulful rasp really elevates. On “Charades,” lush chords, echoing vocals and a strangely effective 2 Chainz verse accentuate the confessions of a guarded and cold woman who has been hurt and burned in the past. It’s unclear whether Chrisette is referring to herself or if she’s just the vessel for a moving story, but that’s the beauty of her delivery. A song doesn’t have to be about her for it to feel like it’s about her: her voice is just that evocative.
There are plenty of anthems out there that celebrate the multiple capabilities of the modern-day superwoman, but with “Supa,” Chrisette explores the other side of that coin, stating her desire to sometimes feel like a little girl and just be rocked to sleep in the most innocent of ways. It’s impossible to be on level ten at all times and Michele is willing to admit that she needs to be loved even when she doesn’t feel pretty or look her best. It’s a very tender confession. In one of Better’s interludes, Chrisette reveals that although she has these huge glass windows in her bedroom, she’s afraid of the dark and revels in being able to hold and be held by someone during the night. Sleeping alone troubles her, but as long as she can “Get Through The Night,” everything will be alright. It is easy to dismiss these somewhat sad confessions as a lack of maturity, but Chrisette’s point seems to be that it takes maturity to confess in the first place.
Overall, Better has something for just about everyone. The topics are relatable and longtime Chrisette Michele fans should find themselves quite satisfied. The multiple producers brought in to handle the project were quite successful at creating soundscapes that work best with what could be called “the trademark Chrisette Michele sound.” It’s good music for the summertime and beyond. Give it a spin and you just might be Better afterward as well.
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