U Turn

Brian McKnight

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U Turn Review

by John Bush

Brian McKnight found a good pattern for his releases after 1997's Anytime, which featured the breakout hip-hop crossover "You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste Your Time)." After that, he usually made concessions to changing trends in R&B (since a few changeups are good for any artist), but dedicated most of his records to the type of smooth jams he loves to sing and his fans love to hear. U Turn isn't the change of direction hinted at in the title; in fact, it's very close to format, with a pair of rap features (for Nelly and Fabolous) but plenty of space for McKnight's earnest, heartfelt crooning. Over half the album was not only written by McKnight but performed and produced by him as well, and although his writing is among the best in R&B, the backing tracks are bland meldings of piano, synthesized strings, and canned beats. No surprise then, that the best tracks here are the ones where he can focus on his voice, like the classic regret ballad "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda," the backing left in the capable hands of veterans Damon Thomas and Harvey Mason Jr. The rap crossovers are solid, more than just pairings with commercial successes; loved-up rappers like Nelly and Fabolous work well rhyming over McKnight, and the Rockwilder production on the title track is a good match with an R&B singer.

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