Following a number of years as an independent artist, Ro James finally finds himself releasing his first album ELDORADO. With a history as a rebel in a religious family behind him and a unique set of experiences to draw upon both musically and lyrically, there’s plenty of set-up for a strong debut album that solidifies his place as a contender in the modern R&B world. While the album doesn’t always live up to these lofty goals, there’s no doubt that the album has a solid foundation that makes for an enjoyable debut effort.
The biggest thing that drags ELDORADO down is its production. Songs like A.D.I.D.A.S. (All Day I)—whose title is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sexing You—and the title track ELDORADO don’t stick in your mind long, and feature themes and lyrics that don’t really help set the songs apart, especially when paired with simple instrumentals. The somewhat abstract opener The Ride also sets an initially off-putting mood, which makes for a somewhat sketchy first impression. It mostly sticks to the classic R&B style, sometimes too much for its own good, but can step a little too far out of bounds as well.
Elsewhere, however, the album strikes gold. The combination of the sultry, seductive Burn Slow and the complimentary slow groove of the following track Already Knew That are incredibly catchy, and quickly reverse the initially unsure feeling that comes with listening to The Ride; while Burn Slow mostly rolls with its strong instrumental, however, Already Knew That features the catchiest hook on the album, despite only using the song’s title. New Religion’s injection of alt-rock gives it a unique flavour and some power that the album’s other tracks sometimes lack, which is also helped with the lyrics drawing on his own religious experiences rather than a cliché R&B trope, and the gospel R&B fusion on Holy Water makes for one of the album’s strongest choruses, with the inclusion of the organ giving the song the hook it needed to truly catch onto listeners.
As a complete package, ELDORADO is an occasionally awkward mixture of R&B styles, some of which work amazingly well and some that aren’t quite as compelling. At the end of its run, however, ELDORADO leaves an overall much better impression than what you might initially expect, and is well worth sitting through to experience the ups and downs and truly form your own opinion of it. Ro James didn’t set out to change the face of R&B, but it wasn’t a necessary act anyway; it’s not a perfect album, but there’s a lot to enjoy about ELDORADO.