After heading family soul group The Gap Band and being the go-to singer for Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg and others, R&B vocalist Charlie Wilson has become part of recent popular culture through his work with Kanye West. After all, he’s behind those sublime chorus vocals on the breathtaking but ultimately notorious Bound 2.
Joining the 1980s retro bandwagon is opener Somebody Loves You, a hybrid of saucy 1970s percussion, funky 1980s synth-pop production (including vocoder) and soothing 1990s female backing vocals. Despite the track being a bit disposable, it is still an uplifting, good old-fashioned soul track on which Wilson’s velvety vocals are a delight.
1960s doo-wop is evoked on the cheesy but effortlessly wonderful single Goodnight Kisses (which sounds like a modern take of At Last if previous duet partners Boyz II Men took the reins) and My Favourite Part of You (which manages to leave just enough to the imagination despite yearning lines like ‘so damn sexy, it hurts’). Wilson continues to worship the female form on the slightly generic, Timbaland-lite Birthday Dress and Sugar.Honey.Ice.Tea.
Just Like Summertime starts slow but then sizzles like a Georgian barbecue mentioned in the lyrics, with its New Jack Swing throwback, carefree bass synthesizer and mesmerising thick vocal harmonies. This is a must-single, as it’s bound to lift any listener’s mood and bring summer into the room.
Wilson is his own man, but that doesn’t stop him from channelling other greats like the late Luther Vandross on the cheeky, bouncy Hey Lover and Chaka Khan on the euphoric, breezy slow-burner Things You Do. Even the opening, gliding synth riff, breathy drum pads, insistent vocal harmonies and the line ‘makes me feel this way’ sound like a homage to Ain’t Nobody.
Along with closer Me and You Forever, Unforgettable is perfect for a chilled, romantic island paradise with a certain type of herbal refreshment. However, the latter has Shaggy’s distinctive but admittedly tacked-on vocals and barely sounds like a collaboration. Fortunately, Infectious lives up to its title with its irresistibly funky groove, energetic, spontaneous ad-libs (‘good lord, ow!’) and Snoop Dogg’s trademark swagger.
Charlie Wilson’s combination of nostalgia for the past and subtle modern production touches has resulted in an effort that would be great for a fun night out at a classy club. Fans of 1990s R&B will certainly lap this up.