After 16 long years Bell Biv DeVoe make a not-so-triumphant return with a new studio album Three Stripes. It comes at the heels of a lauded BET profile of New Edition, which in the end is far more entertaining than the album. The trio of crooners once built an empire upon their universal lyrics and trailblazing style.
For Three Stripes they look to throw their hat back in the game by interpreting trends that are way out of their league. At times they sound pressed, unsure and dated, and as a result they resort back to familiar lyrics that in the end do nothing for their legacy. At their best Bell Biv DeVoe get nostalgic. At their worst they sound like bad karaoke. It’s a needless and forgettable album that looks to benefit off of renewed, but altogether fleeting interest.
P. Diddy written all over this desperate grab, and it’s astonishing that even after all these years his sound is still as wretched today as it was in the ’90s. It’s easy to imagine Bel Biv DeVoe gallivanting around flossing hard while at the same time being careful not to scuff up the rented cars. The grandstanding is to be expected, but what’s disappointing is the complete lack of soul: [LISTEN]
Early-2000s r&b repurposed for modern day senses. The beat is a fusion of generic hip-hop and off-brand soul, an amalgam of second rate ideas. It’s your classic damsel in distress story that has been played out for centuries, and with little in the way of inspiration it unravels in undramatic fashion. In truth they are not being heroes, but vultures circling by waiting for their chance: [LISTEN]
The beat is a careless Pharell knockoff, with the scatterbrain percussion hitting the eardrum like a rusty ice pick. It’s a force of the hand that sends the fellas into rapid fire mode. The stream of consciousness flow reveals several oddities, and the one thing to take away is that when courting a woman the last thing you want to do is compare your macking skills to the Three Stooges: [LISTEN]
The gauntlet has been thrown and the boys are demanding answers. All the hard work they’ve put in seems to be falling by the wayside and they’ve had enough. The beat creates an agitated air that puts everyone in a sour mood. With only one person in the relationship giving all the effort, they’re beginning to question everything. Too bad for them the lady is immune to their cries: [LISTEN]
It takes a moment to realize that it’s not an SNL parody of old school r&b. The atmosphere is laced with cigar smoke and greasy velvet, a drunken haze that has the guys spitting sloppy game. They’re looking to be the peanut butter to their jelly, the milk to their shake and it is about as bland as the early bird special at Denny’s. They’re jumping back in, but pulling a hammy in the process: [LISTEN]
Desperate and at death’s door, the protagonists drop to their knees begging, pleading for reconciliation. The beat is an audible soap opera and it inspires a laundry list of reason’s why the two should try and work things out. The throwback nature stirs the senses back to another era, yet the coffee is still stale. It’s early Usher, and dripping with cheese. A little late on the revivalist trend: [LISTEN]
Spitting that hot cocoa, next-to-the-fireplace game and praying to god it works. They’re unleashing sweet nothings at a remarkable clip proving that there’s still a little bit of life left in those achy legs. Maybe it’s the slower tempo or perhaps the presence of SWV who still sound as sweet as spring rain that’s getting them going. Either way they finally sound like they’re in control: [LISTEN]
A stepper’s jam crafted to soothe the rough waters of a troubled relationship. The excuses are time-tested winners and about the only defense a fella has when in the dog house. It resonates well as it bounces with the type of soul that pairs well with lighthearted lyrics. Boyz II Men add their vocal touches and by the end you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a Stevie Wonder-led jam session: [LISTEN]
Last call of the night and they’re driving to the bucket hard. The compliments come raining in from all directions as they’re looking to close the deal. It’s a panty-dropping anthem that sounds as corny as the title suggests. The beat hits with a level of dryness that would only inspire a person to find the nearest exit. Weak, old man game that is more midlife crisis than triumphant comeback: [LISTEN]