Lenny Kravitz must have realized he bottomed out with the turgid Circus, so he decided to shake things up a bit on its follow-up, 5. Like any veteran in the late '90s, he dabbled in electronica, adding a few trip-hop loops and analog synths to his bedrock rock n' soul. It's enough to make 5 sound relatively fresh, at least compared to the retro dead-end of Circus, yet it sounds like Kravitz read about the idea of electronica without actually listening to any music. Anemic synths and stilted drum loops (sampled from Kravitz's playing, not old records) are scattered throughout the record, along with vaguely distorted vocals. It's not enough to make Kravitz sound hip, especially since he still loves endless funk jams and electric sitars, but it does revitalize his sound. At least for a little while. By the end of the album, his songwriting sounds as tired and unmemorable as on Circus. Without hooks, melodies, and style, Kravitz's Sly, Mayfield, Hendrix, Lennon, and Prince pastiches are a bore. 5 has a few passable cuts, yet it falls short of the quirky hero worship and melodic smarts that made his first three records so enjoyable.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine