Review by Matt Rocke
LEON BRIDGES – GOOD THING
Leon Bridges makes no bones about it. On the first single release from his new album Good Thing, the call is clear, “Let me come through, I’m tired being in the back, I’m just tryna move up front.” To this end, his new album is a soul-stepping contemporary R&B record referencing the slicker side of the 70’s and now.
Conversely, Bridges’ debut album Coming Home was the epitome of vintage cool with choice cuts signalling time, family, God and circumstance. Back mid-decade Bridges made a generational statement: here’s what you’ve missed out on and here’s what’s missing in today’s saccharine R&B.
From his emergence in 2015, Bridges’ stocks jumped fast. He went from singing open mics to the White House. Rolling Stone photographed him at a community radio station in Melbourne and next thing he was jamming with Gary Clark Jr at the Opera House. His interim recordings maintained his star momentum. In 2016 he dug into The Temptation’s Ball of Confusion for Baz Luhrmann’s television series The Get Down and last year smashed out a brilliant vocal performance on an electro pop hit with Odesza.
Bridges new record moves us far from the ‘50s vibe of his first album to the post rock ‘n’ roll ‘70s and 2010s radio friendly R&B. Despite odes like ‘Georgia to Texas’, his southern roots are pair back this time around. The bulk of the album’s territory is a more crowded musical domain.
As an artist producing the tricky second record, invariably some of the spark has gone. The lexicon too is less evocative. Tracks like, ‘If It feels Good’ or ‘You Don’t Know’ have some bounce, but where’s the soul? Save the smooth ‘Shy’ and ‘Lions’, Bridges trademark whisper and solace are sparse. As a result, ‘Good Thing’ at times could be mistaken for Bruno Mars, Ne-Yo or Pharrell Williams.
That said, there is still gold coming from Fort Worth, it’s not all ‘Bad Bad News’ (which is a standout) and although a remark of his debut would never have cut it, some bigger risks and abandon on Good Thing could have yielded more rewards.
Bridges will open later this year for Harry Styles, an artist facing a similar summons from fans for a surprise sophomore album.