On her third full-length offering, Maya Azucena’s song titles alone show you where she’s coming from – “Shine,” “Run Into the Light,” “Belong to the Sun” – the girl’s addicted to positivity. Given headlines of cold protestors on Wall Street and heroes turning a blind eye to child abuse, one may wonder what headlines she’s reading to summon this sunshine. Thankfully, Cry Love spends the better part of an hour giving you reason to also see the light.
Azucena received prominent notice in 2007 when she appeared on Stephen Marley’s Grammy-winning Mind Control album, but her pipes have been heard on projects all over the world benefiting various causes. In Brooklyn and beyond, she’s known for her humanitarian efforts in support of domestic abuse victims and disadvantaged youth. These elements combine to give all her songs a message of encouragement, whether she’s speaking to ‘little ghetto boys’ or women struggling to survive. Though such affirmations occasionally drift into afterschool special sappiness, Azucena unites the goodness with her home-girl stance on songs like “Warriors” and “The Half” featuring guitar hero Vernon Reid. Her endless optimism springs from hard won battles against difficult times, some specifically mentioned here, others merely brushstroked. The operatic electric explosion that closes the track destroys everything else on the album, not that the rest pale in comparison, but “The Half” soars so high above all the other worthy accomplishments on the album. The easy samba vibe that underlies “Near” creeps out to dominate the final minute of the track, one of many subtle mood swings that prevent Cry Love from being too ballad heavy or eager for street credibility. Even love songs such as “Changed My Mind” are hopeful, not bitter, post-break-up missives.
With all kinds of flavors, Azucena creates a musical stew that inspires without slacking on the creative spice. Her personal mission to uplift the masses helps her avoid genre clichés, while crafting a sophisticated set of diverse R&B.
- Candace L.