Johnny Gill

Game Changer

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    7
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Johnny Gill's seventh proper studio album is markedly better than his 2011 return, Still Winning. Supported by another crop of male background vocalists, Gill once again sounds as if he's the leader of a group from time to time, but he is more prominent here, and the material -- contributed by Chuck Harmony, Claude Kelly, Gregg Pagani, and Vidal Davis, among others -- sticks a bit more. Gill benefits from a couple higher-profile collaborative songs. "This One's for Me and You" is a classy contemporary ballad made with New Edition, though it's closer to a duet between Gill and the group's Ralph Tresvant. The title track, a ballad about settling down that references sweet vintage soul and Roger Troutman at once, was produced by Babyface and Antonio Dixon. Stylistically, Game Changer is exceedingly varied. Mature contemporary sounds, sophisticated disco-funk, and Hi-like southern soul are handled with equal finesse. There's even a bit of nostalgia for the early '90s; some listeners might catch themselves thinking of Rude Boys' 1990 classic "Written All Over Your Face" while they play "Behind Closed Doors," the album's lead single. The only ill fit is the hard-charging EDM experiment "Guinevere," easy to quickly disregard and forget as the album's finale.

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