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Chrisette Michelle "Epiphany" Album Review

Updated on May 25, 2009

"Epiphany"

Part One

To borrow a line from Billy Joel:

“Don’t go changing, to try and please me, I like you just the way you are.”

That’s how I feel about Chrisette Michelle’s Epiphany, the follow-up to her Gold-selling debut, I Am.

But to back up a step – I can understand why Michelle felt compelled to shake things up a bit.

Because when viewed through the fickle lens of the record company boardroom, I Am was a bit of a contradiction.

It did sell enough units to go Gold and it did even notch the fabulous Michelle a pair of Grammys.

However, even with that in mind, I Am still left a little bit on the table.

Of the three cuts that were released as singles, singles that were well chosen off the album, none hit the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B charts. The album itself did not even crack the Top 20.

All that aside, I Am was still a wonderful album and it heralded the arrival of a big-time singing sensation onto the scene.

And while the singles that I Am spawned may not have torn up the charts, they still served the purpose of getting Michelle’s wondrous voice on the airwaves.

And with that crafty, inviting voice, she certainly pronounced her intentions to take us back to the days when real talent mattered.

Those intentions are probably still the same, but Michelle has added a curveball to her repertoire on Epiphany.

Where I Am seemed like a throwback to old school jazz, at least vocal-wise, Epiphany gives a shout out to an edgier, rawer crowd. Maybe more hip, especially in the eyes of the powers that be.

It’s still jazzy, mind you, but it’s also more popish, with sharper edges instead of rounded corners.

"Epiphany I'm Leavin"

Part Two

Almost as if Michelle, or her record company, is going after a wider, or different, range of listeners with Epiphany.

The shift in style is not the only thing different on Epiphany. Where she was involved with a hand in writing all the songs on I Am, Michelle only co-wrote three tunes on her latest disc.

However, taking all this into account, Epiphany is still a solid follow-up to I Am.

And that has all in the world to do with Michelle herself. And the way the girl sings.

Michelle turns the production keys over to Ne-Yo on Epiphany, who along with being executive producer, also took part in writing six of the songs on the disc.

And Ne-Yo seems to work well with Michelle. The only exception to this might be the way that the songs all kind of blend together, without a whole lot of kick or energy.

“Mr. Right” bops along and leaves a taste of old school funk on the tongue. The tune also has some sweet vocal harmonies that go down smooth and easy.

Another cut with an old-school vibe, though who that’s not so funky, is “Notebook.” It’s a bit more kicked-back.

The subject matter on Epiphany is a bit different from I Am, too.

Heartbreak and break-ups seem to be at the core of Epiphany.

And on the subject of two ships headed in opposite directions - “Blame it on Me” is really a great track about the not-so-subtle art of the shove-off.

“All I Ever Think About” is built from much of the soulful, jazzy stock that was so prominent on I Am, and it probably strikes the closest mood to that of Michelle’s first album.

At the end of the day, it’s really hard not to like Epiphany. And once again, that’s due to the allure of Chrisette Michelle’s very soulful voice. Epiphany may have more of an urban feel to it, but it still manages to have the same intensity as its predecessor.

I just hope that somehow Chrisette Michelle can steer clear of any outside pressures that are intent on making her sound like the rest of the neo-soul pack.

She deserves to stand on her own.

Because, Chrisette Michelle, I like you just the way you are.

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