Trey Songz is head and shoulders above many a lover-man peer.
Mike Diver 2010
"I’m’a get you naked, baby / My love will drive you crazy." As this lyric from Doorbell illustrates, Trey Songz hasn’t strayed far from his US breakthrough album, 2009’s Ready, in terms of inspiration for this follow-up. Passion, Pain & Pleasure is very much a record for the bedroom, from the bedroom. With characteristics comparable to the saucier corners of the catalogues of Prince, R Kelly and The-Dream, Tremaine Neverson’s fourth long-player is well-positioned within a fairly wide niche, and it’s already made a significant mark on charts stateside. But, much like The-Dream’s excellent Love King album of this year, it seems destined to remain a below-the-radar release in the UK.
Which, given some of the weak RnB that does cross from the US to these shores, is a big disappointment. Sure, this isn’t revolutionary stuff – but neither, really, was the Drake album, Thank Me Later, and that’s appeared in several best-of-the-year lists. The skill is in the execution, in the articulation – and Trey is well studied and blessed with some wonderfully smooth vocals. Unlike Drake, he can’t switch from a croon to a rap, but there are times when he runs the Canadian vocalist close in terms of tone and texture. The production rarely bursts into fireworks-bright boisterousness, ensuring that the whole flows with appealing ease. When spotlights are shined, they fall upon guest-starring tracks – the in-demand Nicki Minaj is her slightly unhinged self on Bottoms Up, a breath of fresh air but nevertheless starting to sound formulaic now that she’s dropping bars on so many other records; and Drake snarls with nasally menace through the final third of Unusual, immediately elevating the track to new levels of aggression.
There’s the sense that a conceptual framework is at play throughout – the interludes act as introductions to new chapters in the record’s run-time, and lyrical motifs are repeated. But this isn’t a collection anyone will need to listen to from start to finish in order to get the idea. Love Faces and Massage telegraph the key traits of what is to follow – in-depth descriptions of how our protagonist is going to pleasure his other half, set to silken production courtesy of the likes of Swizz Beatz and Troy Taylor (Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin collaborator Taylor has acted as a mentor of sorts to Trey ever since a meeting back in 2001).
It might sound like a cavalcade of clichés on paper, but with punchy couplets and shimmering production, Trey Songz here furthers his reputation an artist head and shoulders above many a lover-man peer.