Durrell Babbs was rolling as smoothly as ever in 2014. This Is How I Feel, his fifth album, had gone Top Ten, while the product of his collaboration with Tyrese and Ginuwine, as TGT, debuted at number three and was Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Album. Though his adequate and sometimes brow-raising sixth album might seem fittingly titled, it's more descriptive of his career than of the content. "Stronger" itself, one of his best ballads, regards perseverance and devotion, yet Last Ditch Attempts would be a more descriptive title for an album with desperate expressions like "I'll come to his house and help you pack your bags" and "'Cause I'm praying now/I give to the homeless now." On "If That's What It Takes," Babbs takes it to a new level by declaring "I'll carry your baby, do that nine months of pain," like he wrote it while watching that episode of The Cosby Show where Dr. Huxtable has an off-the-wall dream after eating a hero sandwich. Through much of Stronger, Babbs relates how much he needs his woman, and how much she means to him, over soft and glistening slow-jam productions from the likes of Young Fyre, James "J-Doe" Smith and Eric "Bluetooth" Griggs, and Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis and Shama "Sak Pase" Joseph. The uptempo songs are highlighted by the opening "You're My Star," with Kelly Rowland present in the background, while "Dance with Me" and "I Gotta Have It" -- the latter the album's lone song about a short-term fling -- are more throwback in nature, offering light disco-funk. The relatively relaxed "Missing You," a more explicitly referential track, is a '70s Marvin Gaye homage built on a rolling, horn-accented groove with a subtle reference to "Distant Lover." It's more convincing than any of Robin Thicke's Gaye tributes.
by Andy Kellman