Happy Love Sick

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Happy Love Sick is the solo debut from Shifty, an impressively tattooed fella who was Crazy Town's frontman. He's traded in every last bit of that band's aggression and heaviness for a light, frothy pop-rap sound that also has traces of dancehall, funk, and neo-soul. Along with collaborator TC and others, Shifty has crafted a sweet summer album loaded with lilting ballads and love raps. Just about every song is about love and sex and is built around the same kind of bouncing hip-hop beats with acoustic guitar combo that worked so well for Sugar Ray, 311, and others. The best songs on the album sound like they've already been pumping out of car radios for weeks: "EZ Cuz You're Beautiful," a sticky love song based on Minnie Riperton's "Loving You," "Turning Me On," a slinky Neptunes lift produced by Paul Oakenfold, and the bopping "Slide Along Side." Actually the best song on the album had been on radio for a while: "Starry Eyed Surprise" is a glittering party track also produced by Oakenfold that was featured on his album from 2002, Bunkka. The two Oakenfold productions unfortunately show the weakness of the album as they are much more successfully produced and are quite a bit more exciting than the song after song of stoned grooves on the rest of the album. A little more variation might have served Shifty a little better and made the album much stronger. Also, even though it is a poignant song about his best friend who died, he probably should have left "A Better Place" in his lyric book, as its platitudes really throw a spotlight on Shifty's shallowness. Shallow is perfect for summer pop but just sounds dopey on the serious tracks like this and the ponderous and boring "Take Away the Pain." A couple missteps can't dim the good-time peaceful easy feeling though, and Happy Love Sick is a surprisingly good album that should be a feature at late-summer slow drags, beach bonfires, and freshman mixers.

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