Once upon a time you could sit back and respect what Musiq Soulchild was bringing to the R&B/soul landscape. He slid in alongside D’Angelo and Maxwell in their heyday like a new pair of shoes and worked himself into daily rotation. Musiq was smooth, fresh and spending quality time with a brown skin girl with locs – what more could you ask for? A little variety, for starters. The one critique I would’ve given to his output in those early platinum-selling days was that all his songs, enjoyable as they may have been, were a bit…samey. Though the subject matter is familiar, Musiq avoids that pitfall on his sixth release, Musiqinthemagiq, by infusing his standard R&B with lively production. Jerry Wonda, Jack Splash and ELEMENT, among others, walk a tightrope that allows Musiq to branch out into synths and upbeat tempos without alienating those who like their slow groove balladeer.
Swizz Beatz may be the big ticket guest on the lead single “Anything,” but that’s not the draw on Musiqinthemagiq. It’s an anomaly compared to the rest of the album, where he says all the right things or explains some very wrong things in a way so rational and relatable that you can’t help but appreciate the honesty. “Single” is a nice ‘what if’ scenario as he resists temptation from a gas station temptress. “Love Contract” is a bouncy commitment song channeling some of Raphael Saadiq’s 1960s throwback cool, but it’s a pleasant surprise coming from Mr. Soulchild instead. “Back To Where” doesn’t grab you until the stammering hook, while songs like “Yes” and “Medicine” harken back to that reliable ‘I’m with you come what may’ attitude that Musiq so convincingly delivers.
Musiq’s down-to-earth imagery and lyrical vision continue to serve him well, but the topics have aged well with him. He doesn’t settle for the typical love song, but holds your interest by switching perspectives and telling a new character’s story within the tale you’ve heard before. For someone a decade deep into his career, Musiq and his crazy phonetics managed to whip up a fresh dose of solid tracks to keep fans and newcomers alike satisfied.