Sex, love and soul. These are the elements that comprise Jaheims new album Appreciation Day. The album takes these themes and pairs them with the characteristic keyboard and bass arrangements of R&B music, all sung through Jaheims distinctive tenor. The result is an album with a mature quality that exudes sex appeal (indeed, six of the fourteen tracks- in subtle or less-than-subtle ways- touch on the art of love making). But when not making seductive suggestions, Jaheim takes his other-wise very safe album to venture into uncharted lyrical territory.
Age Aint a Factor, the album leads single is a rich number that compares his lover to a fine bottle of winegetting better with time. The song itself is almost Jaheim signifying an understanding of his own role in the music scene. Realizing that he is far removed from his days as an R&B neophyte, his sound sticks to an almost formulaic groove that suggests that this is grown folks music. And, to be sure, his alluring lyrics makes certain that there is no mistaking that his audience is the grown and sexy!
It could be said that P**** Appreciation Day (what is ostensibly the title track) is a bit gratuitous in its attempts to glorify specific acts of sex. It comes off as wanting to be deeply romantic and passionate, but includes such graphic descriptors that its more distracting than arousing. However, the other sensual ballads contrast sharply to the clumsy Appreciation Day. Particularly, the sensuous Shower Scene provides vivid imagery that conveys passion and tender love making. And for all of the seriousness of its sensuality, theres a playfulness to it as Jaheim sings on the bridge kiss you right there. I wont wet your hair.
Turning his attention from sex to relationships, Appreciation Day encompasses songs suitable for all stages of relationships. A standout number is He Dont Exist. It could be considered the anti-ballad because of its rigid embrace of relationship pragmatism. The song shatters ideals of romanticism and expectations that individuals have of their male partner. But where the song could provide insightful relationship advice, it disappoints because of the patronizing tone it takes with Jaheim essentially telling this woman that a) he does not live up to these ideal standards b) neither is he trying and 3) his practical interpretation of a relationship is the best model to which she should aspire. Nonetheless, the very romantic Chase Forever seems to recant on the harshness of He Dont Exist, replete with heavenly chimes of a synthesizer in the background.
Venturing from themes of sex and love, two tracks in particular find Jaheim playing one of the vital, historical roles of the soul musician; the social justice griot. Sticks and Stones starts off as seemingly an apologists justification of domestic violence. But the song resolves itself in a nuanced portrayal of Black male culture and challenges men to find better outlets for their emotions before their words cause irreversible damage to their partners. Even more soul-stirring is Florida, an ode to the memory of Trayvon Martin. In the evocative song, Florida, Jaheim personifies the Sun Shine state, asking her why dont you love your Black babies the same?
For all the strength of Jaheims matured quality, it is also somewhat of an Achilles heel for the album. Sonically he seems to not have evolved much from his earlier music catalog. Usually thats a good sign of a principled artist, showing that he stands by his music and is not merely competing to move units. But in this case, it makes the album feel a bit outdated. Nonetheless, the album at least keeps Jaheim active in the world of R&B with what is certain to be a soundtrack for many lovers!
Tracks We Like: Shower Scene, Chase Forever
Appreciation Day Track 7- Shower Scene
Appreciation Day Track 14- Chase Forever