Johnny Gill

Game Changer II

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Hyperbolic title notwithstanding, Game Changer did at least certify Johnny Gill's lasting appeal to urban adult contemporary stations when "This One's for Me and You" caught on and topped Billboard's Adult R&B Songs chart. It was the singer's first single to do so. (Not even "My Body," his biggest hit with LSG, scaled that height.) Gill struck again with the lead single of Game Changer II, the praising ballad "Soul of a Woman," another Gregg Pagani collaboration and an Adult R&B Songs number one months before the album was released. By that measure alone, Game Changer II is a success, but in terms of quality and style, it's more of a mixed bag than the preceding LP. Front-loaded with diversions into reggae and Latin pop -- backing from Sheila E. and Carlos Santana doesn't save "Fiesta," which in the first verse alone manages to use up seƱorita, bonita, mamacita, and margarita -- the album then stabilizes somewhat with a temperate sequence heavy on slow jams and ballads. The songs skip across eras, moving from old-school pleaders to liquid late-'80s grooves to trap-styled beats, incorporating a lovely Luther Vandross homage ("That's My Baby") and a Jam and Lewis reunion ("So Hard") super-charged with inspiration from Bill Conti's Rocky soundtrack. Gill handles all the turns with his deep baritone, growling and lilting only when necessary.

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