Teedra Moses

Complex Simplicity

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The knock against neo-soul is that it looks desperately to the past instead of the present or future, having disconnected somewhere in the late '70s, just before the wicked drum machines and synthesizers came around to siphon the soul out of R&B. Pop-oriented R&B is routinely faulted for being insincere and inauthentic, full of flash and bleating-goat ululations. New R&B artists in 2004 tended to be slotted into one of the two categories, either next to Jill Scott and "the next D'Angelo," or next to Usher and "the next Beyoncé." Singer and songwriter Teedra Moses sees the good in both sides, realizing that there must be some people out there who are thrilled by modern-day hip-hop-minded productions but crave lyrical content that goes deeper than memorable hooks and identikit platitudes about desire, romantic drama, and soul-searching. Just as importantly, Moses and primary collaborator Paul Poli -- who also teamed up to write and produce Christina Milian's "Dip It Low," an ill-suited reference for the sound of this album -- draw from elements of the past that, save for some Bad Boy samples, have rarely fit into the framework of any R&B for the past several years. The two would be more likely to gush about Patrice Rushen's "Remind Me" or Al B. Sure!'s "Nite and Day" than Innervisions or What's Going On, and the spirit of their work can bring to mind the period when TLC and Mary J. Blige were coming of age. These references inform rather than define the songs. (To further determine the angle of the album, the two tracks not handled by Poli are produced by the best ambassadors of neo-soul and pop-rap/R&B imaginable -- Raphael Saadiq and Lil Jon, respectively.) Moses has a voice that is light and innocent-sounding, offset by all the evidence that she has been through her share of experiences. She may lack the showmanship of her gold and platinum contemporaries, but she can coast on the details that take several listens to surface, like the way "And listen daddy I'm too cute to fight/You better get that bitch told tonight" is somehow the sweetest, catchiest line on the album, or how the title track flips the common "party your troubles away" theme by preceding the joyous chorus, amidst Paisley Park percussion hits, with "Daddy he wasn't there/Momma she's gone now/I gotta be grown/I need you to hold me down." (How many songs turn you into a baller and a bawler at the same time?) This, Moses' debut, is the best R&B album of 2004 -- and possibly the best pop-oriented R&B album since CrazySexyCool.

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