THE “REDROOM” IS OCCUPIED BY J. HOWELL
It’s been a minute since I’ve done a review on an album. That doesn’t mean that there was music that I didn’t enjoy or wasn’t good at all. It just means that there wasn’t an album that took me for a surprise as this one did. The other reason would be if an album is so complex it takes a while to dissect all the nuances that make it great. Either way, I’m so excited to present everyone with this project by J. Howell. This is my first time hearing about this artist and I’m so grateful for new musicians. Years ago, I despised listening to new artists and only wanted to listen to the ones I liked even though I still ventured out. Now as a journalist it is my job and my duty to do so. Since there is so much music it is hard to find the ones that will move you. Thursday’s have become my favorite day because I look forward to all the projects that come out on Friday. It can be overwhelming but every once in a while, there’s a dope ass body of work like this one that catches my ears and full attention like “RedRoom. This album alone has brought me out of my hiatus to tell everyone WATCH OUT FOR J. HOWELL ladies and gentlemen.
Since September R&B music has been in full effect. Cloudy days, a lot of rain and thunder, and late nights, great music is upon us. This was a perfect time to drop this project. It is prime time to drop and R&B album so once can enjoy it through the fall/ winter but also time for it to digest and when all the top 10 lists come about “RedRoom” can be up there as well. All I was thinking while listening to this project besides how dope it was, is that I wish it came out earlier in the decade around 2015 or 2016. Nonetheless, let’s get into the artist himself before we talk about the album.
One thing that I love about R&B is that for the most part, I can’t tell where an artist is from so there is no bias when I am listening to them. With Hip-Hop, it can become difficult to share music due to regional discrepancies within the sounds, lingo, and style of the music. I had no clue that Mr. Howell was from Memphis Tennessee at all, it did come as a shock, but it did not deter me one bit from continuing to listen. At only 25 years old he is on a great career path with music as soulful as he is it makes sense now how a Memphis native would be able to bring such a rich and powerful voice to records that are already full of life themselves. Usually, when an artist has a voice this enticing it’s over beats that are a bit more mellow. However, Howell takes the other approach he doubles down and gives the record a more powerful punch when played anywhere. A lot of times songs with heavy bass and drums blow you away in cars and great speakers, but this whole project is captivating no matter how you listen to it or what you listen to it on.
Every time I struggle to find the words on how to describe an album it’s annoying yet satisfying. It means the artist did such a great job that it is hard for me to articulate how the album made me feel but I will attempt to do it anyway. I hate to say this but Track 1 is a precursor for what is to come. I don’t like stating it like that because it undermines how great the song is a little bit, but it is just a sample of the greatness you’re about to hear from J. Howell. All of the elements that make the album great are in the first track. His vocals can peak unlike a lot of artists and it’s all-natural, he guides the music instead of having the music guide him. He is the focus and is painting a picture and the music is a backdrop to the artist. By the middle of the track he is harmonizing with his own voice and ad-libbing and everything just falls into place beautifully already and that’s just the start.
Track 2 was originally a single that was released in March of this year. Yes, it is a single, but it has as much passion as any other song maybe more in some instances. He does not sacrifice the integrity of the song just for play. He is authentically himself and it works. Howell is speaking of love the whole track and how he is going through so many emotions but doesn’t know how to articulate them. Clearly, he and his partner have been arguing and maybe just reminiscing the past will rekindle the passion they have. If one thing is for sure if you play this song around your significant other, there will be less and less talking the longer the song goes. The only feature on this track and it is placed properly. My mantra is “Rap needs R&B more than R&B needs Rap.” However, the rapping flows on it so well and J adding his vocals and coming in and out of the verse is the sign of an artist who has great direction and knows what he is doing. It’s the subtle touches that make the music that much greater. I didn’t even get into his singing. When Mr. Howell sings in falsetto it’s only for a short period but it’s so enticing and makes you want to hear him hold that note forever. It is reminiscent of my favorite female singer K. Michelle on “These Men”, just so elegant yet J. adds his twist to it which all the better.
Track 3 brings more bass and drums to the sound this time and it sounds more like a modern beat and format that we hear today but it’s a step into a darker side to J. Howell. He continues to sing in somewhat of a high pitch, but it is also a bit raspier too. It seems to be due to the infatuation of a person and he cannot explain why he feels this way. In the song, he states “I wanna leave you but I can’t stop, another nigga taking my spot.” So, he’s in turmoil, distraught, but in love and feels pain all at the same time. It’s a great mixture of levels with a mixture of emotions.
Track 4, “Faithful” is the simplest beat in the entire album, so you know what his means. It’s a chance for the artist to leave the beat behind and bring us to another stratosphere with amazing vocals and that’s exactly what is happening on this track. It’s someone crying out because the other person is not being “Faithful” to them and so they must take it upon themselves to do things they would never do. This is the last straw and they’re moving on to another person, all the love and attention will be gifted to someone else. It is the shortest track, but it gets to the point and everything is said with intent. Many people will be able to relate to this song if they have been in relationships that are predominantly one-sided, and they are tired of being taken advantage of. He does sing in falsetto, however, he does not go to the extreme with it as even in the song as he wants to go outside, he pleads for them not to go too far, or not going as extreme as he intends to.
Track 5 is J. attempting to win the person back and giving every reason in the world why that special person should be with him instead of some random dude that they probably just met. It’s another beat with a lot of drums as it needs that edginess to it to prove how much better he is than any guy the other person can be with. Also, what element is represented to be as badass than “Fire”? Which also just happens to be the title of the track.
The best part of Track 6 is the build, it starts off so mellow with lyrics that repeat over an over such as “You don’t deserve that.” It sounds like someone who has been drinking and is home talking to themselves in the mirror picturing what they would say to the other person. He is officially done and over with them and needs to move on, they are no longer worth his time and even though it’s a somber track it shows growth and improvement within the confines of the album.
“When we making love” is a perfect way to follow the previous record. It sounds like a person who seems more stable and has had time to think about the way he feels. He truly misses this person and is thinking of the times they made love together. Track 7 also has an old school “New Edition” type of feel with the way the song sounds and the instruments chosen. It builds and builds and builds all the way to this formidable crescendo that resembles an entire choir around the 2:45 mark but it’s J. Howell and his incredible range that is singing multiple parts. That’s just how good it is. It’s an old school sound for an old school feel.
In my opinion the slowest song on the album, Track 8 still does not disappoint in any way. This sounds like the two are in the process of making up and they both made mistakes but realized they are made for each other. Just like on faithful, this song is cut from a similar cloth. It allows J. to continue to show and prove his vocal ability and sequence his abilities the exact way he wants.
Now, I don’t know how this record came together but HOLY SHIT!!! is the first thing that comes to mind when I heard it. I can say confidently this is one of the best musical compositions I have heard all year. Everything about it is PERFECT. From the beat being so bass-heavy to Mr. Howell showing off his range once again by giving us a grittier version of himself than he did the whole project but then just sounding so angelic at 2:52 that it’s something I’m having trouble explaining how I feel listening to this piece. All I know is Track 9 should never be played on anything less than full blast. This feels like when two people who are meant to be together finally get together under the covers and make magic happen. It’s a feeling of bliss and Euphoria you feel only a certain amount of times in life. Whatever the feeling is it has already proven the talent that J. Howell has for sure. I played this song over and over again, it makes me sad that it signifies the end of the project but it’s a damn great ending though.
ALBUM SCORE & RATING
OFFICIAL RATING: 9.0/10
- “TALK” (FT. KYLE HIPPY)
- “SOMETHING ABOUT YA”
- ★ “ROCKET”
As far as debut albums go this is one of the best this year if not this decade in my opinion. In a world where there are so many projects coming out every week, I’m so glad to have found this one amongst them. J. Howell has so much potential and he will be a name many people recognize in the industry.