*I am a Lyfe Jennings fan; I own his albums, have seen him numerous times in concert, follow him on Twitter, all of that. So when he announced that I Still Believe (in stores and available for download today) was his last album, I was really shocked that he decided to make his exit from recording so soon.
I quickly put his “retirement” in the same category with other artists that claim retirement but can’t stay away and make an album within two years of hanging up the mic. That was until I heard his reason; he wanted to spend more time being a father, watching his babies grow and teaching them life, I figured he may be for real.
My anticipation for the final album after the teaser single “Busy” was released, but when the official first single “Statistics” hit the internet, like most men I asked what the hell was Lyfe doing? But what else should I expect? He has exposed so much of himself on record and provided so much social commentary; I’m surprised it took this long for a song like “Statistics” to be made. Hopefully his data is wrong, but the message is right on for women and men playing the dating game.
The tone for the album was set, so I just needed to hear what was sandwiched around “Statistics” and “Busy”. The result, a suite built around love. The passion, the pain, the seduction, the heartache, the regret, the hope, the communal responsibility, all love. Songs like “Mama” finds Lyfe perfectly paired with Anthony Hamilton for a soulful telling of stories heard all too often in our community. While “It Coulda Been Worse”, with its gospel roots serves as a reminder that for each pitfall and wrong turn, there are deeper stories than yours, so be thankful for your blessings, big and small. “I Still Believe” is an ode to old school traditions, thought to be long gone but evident through lyrics such as, “I still believe in church on Sunday and praying before you go to sleep/I still believe in teaching by example, cuz kids mimic what they see.” These songs serve as a reminder that love is at the root of it all.
The remainder of the CD is dedicated to the type of love that we’re used to dealing hearing about. “Spotlight” is reminiscent of Usher’s “Love in this Club”, but celebrates the sexiness and seductive beauty of a woman on the dance floor. “Love” is a warning shot to all the fellas that are taking their women for granted. To sum it up, Lyfe is saying, “Do right by her…or I will.” Lyfe cleverly uses comic book heroes to prove how nothing compares to the qualities and strength of his super woman on “Hero”.
My favorite track is “Whatever She Wants”, an emotion that nearly every man can relate to. It speaks to that feeling you get when you think you’ve found “the one”. He’s consumed by her, totally into her; how many fellas have felt something like this “Sometimes when I’m with you I feel like I’m in slow motion/The smell of your perfume, the scent of your lotion/Floating/Through the air/You gotta take me there”. Come on now, stop frontin’, don’t be a statistic. It is the emotions in this song that makes Lyfe the vulnerable man moved by passion and leads into a trio of songs that deal specifically with the outcome one too many of us have become familiar with when it comes to relationship…the pain.
“Learn from This”, “Done Crying”, and “If I Knew Then, What I Know Now” seem to be autobiographical tales ripped from the headlines of his life and turned into song. “Learn” is a cautionary tale of what life is like after the judge has told you how to show your love monetarily, while “Done Crying” has that aha moment of when your ex is really over you and “If I Knew Then…” proves that hindsight is indeed 20/20. Jennings appears to be reaching into his soul to warn his listeners of what the pain of foolishness looks like.
The climatic finale to the album is “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, a song in the vein of “Cry” and “Goodbye” of earlier releases, finds Lyfe pouring his heart and soul out to his loved ones. It is at this moment that you realize this may be the end for life. What more can he say, what else can he write about? Plenty. He’s excelled at documenting his surroundings and turning his experiences into lyrics, so I hope that he returns to the studio within a few short years. But if tomorrow never comes…pick up I Still Believe, and then catch him when he comes to your city.