Discovered through Fame Academy, the BBC's ill-fated and little-watched answer to Pop Idol, soul singer Lemar has gone on to surpass the longevity of most of his more highly publicized talent show counterparts over an impressively consistent five-year career. But while comparisons to the likes of Al Green and Sam Cooke certainly helped to distance him from his less than credible beginnings, his brand of retro-soul, which sounded so fresh on 2003 debut Dedicated, has started to appear a little stale, especially when compared to the inventive club-friendly output of Chris Brown and Ne-Yo. Indeed, even Craig David stepped outside of his acoustic-based comfort zone to produce a few dancefloor-fillers for his recent Greatest Hits retrospective. But following the disappointing sales of his derivative '60s soul pastiche The Truth About Love, the Brit and MOBO Award-winner has opted for something a little more contemporary for his fourth studio album, The Reason. Recorded in Miami, Los Angeles, and Sweden with a hotshot team of producers including Soulshock & Karlin (Beyoncé), Salaam Remi (Britney Spears), and Jim Jonsin (Nelly), it's undoubtedly a more concerted effort to halt the worrying career slide that saw his previous single, "Tick Tock," scrape in at a lowly number 45. But rather than panicking and overloading its ten tracks with processed beats and Hi-NRG trance riffs, The Reason wisely plays it more subtle, bridging the gap between his old-fashioned previous output and a more modern electro-focused sound. So for every shimmering synth-led R&B number ("If She Knew"), there's an authentic attempt at Marvin Gaye-esque soul ("Not What You Say"), and for every Usher-inspired slow jam ("Wait Forever"), there's a crack at Little Richard-style bluesy jazz-pop ("Heartbreaker"). While The Reason's lack of originality still leaves Lemar searching for a full body of work that lives up to the standards of his vocal talents, its blend of old school and new school is a marked improvement on his previous vintage soulman routine, which should help to reverse his decreasing chart fortunes.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien