How do you approach an album that's lush and elegant on one hand and lyrically nasty on the other? Bring your lover and your playful side because Gemini is an aptly named loose and free bedroom winner from Brian McKnight. The cool crooner has had little trouble going platinum in the past, but his albums have also been a bit too patchy, too concerned with being contemporary, and too clogged with guest stars to let McKnight's overabundance of talent really stretch its legs. Rappers Juvenile, Skip, and Akon liven up the slick and sneaky "Watcha Gonna Do?," while Talib Kweli's short appearance on "She" doesn't feel tacked on at all. That's where the concessions to music of the moment stop, and while they're not at all unnecessary, the album really succeeds when McKnight wears all his singer, composer, musician, and producer hats at once and brews up something between Prince's self-titled release and a Sweetback album. Sprinkle in some up to date innuendo and you've got a more soulful, mature alternative to R. Kelly, but what could have been a perfect collection of music for grown folks is dragged down by a couple tracks of filler. "Stay" wanders just a shade too much and "Your Song" is too crowded with clichés to deserve such a jazzy delivery, but there's still enough of an album left to consider this one of McKnight's best. Equally catchy and effortless, "What We Do Here" will be listed on the sticker of McKnight's next best-of, while heartstring-pullin' ballad "Everytime You Go Away" brings to mind Back at One's best tracks. The "lose that loser and get in bed with me" slow funker "Grown Man Business" and "Here With You" ("I reach around and grab a little booty/And it feels so goooood") represent the swaggering but no less sincere side of the album, a great yin to the precious and sweet yang found elsewhere. There are hints of the jazz album McKnight plans to do next, nice hints that it'll be as pleasing as it is polished. Minus a couple wanderers, Gemini is just like that. Glossy but deep R&B with an extra helping of confidence, cool swagger, and expensive satin sheets.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Talib Kweli