After a long hiatus, following battles with her record label, Eve is back with Lip Lock, her fourth studio album, and like much of Eve’s back catalogue, it’s a tough affair.
I have to admit I like the audacity of the opening two tracks (Eve and She Bad Bad); they sneer, they jeer, and Eve owns it, but sadly her trademark audacity wears a little thin as album progresses. Luckily, when you hit track three, just when Eve’s self indulgence is threatening to be annoying, up comes Make It Out This Town (Ft Gabe Saporta); constructed of mellow acoustics, with a fine soulful performance from Saporta, this track knocks it out of the park by providing some much needed tenderness.
The following track, All Night (ft Propain), picks up the baton and runs with it and is another album highlight, with a mix of soulful delivery and some nifty electronic inflections. Continuing in the vein of electro-feel, Keep Me From You (Ft Dawn Richard), is another strong addition to this album.
Sadly, we’re back to over-indulgence with the next track, Wanna Be (Ft Missy Elliot and Nacho), which although is an interesting concept, doesn’t seem to quite pay off, feeling more like a B-Side than an album track.
Mama in the Kitchen (Ft Snoop Dog) is guaranteed to ensure the title line sticks in your head for hours, and that’s no bad thing. Sure, this song has attitude, but unlike the weaker tracks I’ve mentioned, which seem to be saying ‘I’m awesome, get over it’, this one has more of a point to make, and makes it very well.
Maybe I’m getting old, but Grind or Die sounds more like noise than conceptual art. Maybe I’m missing the point, but I didn’t get this song at all. Maybe the song didn’t have a point, and was primarily an experiment. Who knows? This is the ‘love it or hate it or be completely confused’ track. Next track, Zero Below, despite the fantastic chorus, is another angry Eve-Is-Great song, which at this point in the album is getting decidedly old.
Next up (Eve-Is-Great part five), Forgive Me (because Eve is apparently too sexy in the morning), is, despite the lyrics, has a pretty beautiful arrangement; this is the point at which the album feels it’s moving forward, it’s the point at which the album is rejuvenated and makes you remember the high points that came earlier on. Thankfully this is where the album shifts gear, leading to another great track, Never Gone (Ft Chrisette Michele), which (finally) shows Eve in a human light; here she’s vulnerable, soulful, full of personality, and, frankly, it’s sublime.
Finally we have a reprise of track two, She Bad Bad, remixed and featuring Pushy T and Juicy J; this is, like the first version, a fairly good tune, but after the strength of the previous track serves no real purpose.
Overall, this album is a mixed bag. There are plenty of moments of real ingenuity and musical greatness that you’d expect from an artist who’s been making successful music as long as Eve has, and this album is by no means a hard slog, in fact it’s very enjoyable. The problem is, it’s not as rewarding as it could be due to an overreliance on tracks which, on the surface, are comprised purely of self-congratulatory lyrics, which I would hope are meant ironically or (if I’m going to be sceptical) are constructed purely to appeal to the wanna-be ‘bad ass’ girls, to cash in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for empowerment and self confidence, but narcissism is a concept which, by definition, means you offer no value to people other than yourself (except perhaps psychologists), so I have to consider the purpose of reminding listeners that you are great over and over again; where’s the value? What’s the point? Who cares?
Thankfully for Eve, this is not the be-all and end-all of the album, and she does in fact have a lot to offer here, and that’s when she turns her back on her particular brand of angry-female-empowerment songs, and allows herself to show herself in a more rounded light, exploring emotions more complex, and here she has so much more to say. The tracks where this happens are insightful and beautiful, and paradoxically they pack far more of a musical punch than the ‘Eve-is-great’ tracks. Perhaps Eve is an artist who, at this stage of her career, needs to re-evaluate where her strengths lie, which is why this album feels kind of uneven. Luckily there is strength here, a lot of it, which makes it worth it.