The holder of a record 79 Grammy nominations and 27 Grammies awarded. The producer of the biggest selling album of all time and three records for MJ that together reputedly sold over 180 million copies. ‘The only cat I wanna meet and have validate me’ – ?uestlove. And that’s just scratching the surface of Quincy Jones’ achievements. He bestrides twentieth century popular music like a colossus; if all the above wasn’t enough evidence of his stature, peep the guest list for this album (and prepare yourself for another long, long, list).
Talib Kweli, Akon, Ludacris, Jamie Foxx, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Usher, Robin Thicke, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige, Q Tip, BeBe Winans, Wyclef Jean, T Pain, Amy Winehouse, Three 6 Mafia, David Banner, T.I., B.o.B., Naturally 7, Rudy Currence, Prince Charlez and Mohombi. Q’s pulling power is such that he can even bring Barry White back from beyond the grave. And they’re all here, in the words of Luda, ‘to pay tribute to a living legend.’ Given that the only thing more impressive than Quincy’s supporting cast is his back catalogue, it should make for some classic material. After all, we’re talking about the ‘soundtrack to my life’ that shaped modern music as it is today. It’s Kweli that says that on “Ironside,” but it could be me, you, or anyone in the world born after 1950. But somehow, there’s precious little of the magic that’s filled his career on Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.
It might, because everyone’s simply afraid to step on Q’s toes and bust out on their own, but it’s just a bit lacklustre. That’s not to suggest that anyone here does anything less than a good job, but nor does anyone excel either. The whole thing feels a bit like those awkward collaborations you get at the Grammys where a couple of big names get thrown together, do their thing without exhibiting any real chemistry, throw some platitudes around about the artist they’re paying ‘tribute’ to, then get off stage as quick as damn possible.
There’s a couple of honourable exceptions; Snoop works the laidback, West Coast vibe on “Get The Funk Out Of My Face” like only he can, Jennifer Hudson turns in a powerful performance on “You Put A Move on My Heart” and “Many Rains Ago (Oluwa)” is pretty fantastic until the horrific Eurodance beat kicks in. But elsewhere Q-Tip is marginalised to toasting duties, Amy Winehouse is lethargic and apathetic and T-Pain autotunes “P.Y.T.” to death. And why on earth Akon is here, I’ve got no idea. The sad thing is that if this concept had been presented as a one-off concert, it could have been amazing; a fitting tribute from the brightest stars of the 21st century to the man who taught them everything they know. But on record, it simply fails to take off. Quite frankly Quincy Jones, and his legacy, deserve better.