Aretha Henry – Mrs. Jones – Album Review
I have this weird thing that I do every so often when switching from one style of music to another. I fully believe that you have the best success in listening to something if you handle life like a mixtape that flows with some smoothness, you feel me? So I preview things sometimes…a quick ten-seconds of any song will reveal a lot to me…and if I like what I hear & know I’m in the mood for that style of music, I might scan a few more at the same time. In the process, I’m trained as a reviewer to notice single-worthy potential whenever & wherever it exists as well…that’s what I do…and when you click track after track on Henry’s album Mrs. Jones to get a quick idea of what you might be in-store for, believe me when I say, single-worthy potential is exactly what you’ll hear, on each and every tune. Of course I can say all this comfortably from the hindsight of having spun Aretha’s new record several times now to the point where I can verifiably confirm all the claims I’m making to be FACTUAL, ACCURATE, and TRUE – first impressions still count for a lot when it comes to how we experience & listen to music, and she’s made an excellent one here throughout the lineup of songs on Mrs. Jones and the talent she possesses.
Basically what I’m saying is, I listened to all these songs from beginning to end because I genuinely enjoyed them – not because I needed the entire length of this record to convince me of Aretha’s star-quality…that’s something just about everyone out there should be able to hear instantaneously.
What’ll likely hit ya first is the high-up tones of Aretha’s vocals as she takes on the opening tune, “Can’t Stay Away,” swaying soulfully with sweetness as she sings this love-song to start up Mrs. Jones. It’s charming, cute, beautiful…all that…you can even hear a slight squeak in Aretha’s voice, giving “Can’t Stay Away” just 10% more of its blissful appeal. As a first-impression, this cut instantly confirms her allure…”Can’t Stay Away” is fairly slow & minimalist in its design, leaving Henry with often just a beat, a bass-line, and a couple notes here and there – but other than that, it’s all up to her to deliver, and she does. And for what it’s worth, I think she’s got this whole record laid-out perfectly…which is something you’ll know once she’s reached the end of course, but the point is, going with a more low-key & subtle tune like “Can’t Stay Away” to open-up the album was a good move. Aretha reveals a few of her cards, but hardly all of them, which gives the record plenty of room to expand from here – and with what she accomplishes in just a short & hypnotic two-minute experience with her opening tune, everything you’ll hear absolutely beckons you to keep on listening for what else you might find on Mrs. Jones.
What I ended up appreciating & loving even more about “Can’t Stay Away,” was that it was actually unique to itself – Aretha sings this song in a totally different part of her vocal register than what she’ll bring to the following tune called “Love Language” – and the switch is…well…pretty much breathtaking really. I’ll say this…”Can’t Stay Away” reveals a more timid approach in hindsight of listening to the rest of the record afterwards – and hearing how confidently Aretha immediately starts to go after her moment on “Love Language” was all the proof my ears needed to know that, she didn’t just possess an ability to create a sweet & memorable melody, she also had all the power, tone, and range to back it up. I wouldn’t fault either of the opening tunes when it comes to the writing, or even in the execution when it comes to the completely separate directions they take – but when it comes right down to what’s going to instantly connect to hearts & minds out there listening, “Love Language” has the edge for the win, no doubt. I will say that Henry makes a choice here & there in terms of which tone to select or pair with the stunning piano-led melody surrounding her at a couple moments here & there…but…that being said, after hearing just how much of this she gets so perfectly RIGHT, who am I to question her choices anyhow? You can hear an artist blossoming and embracing their moment with true passion on “Love Language,” bolstered brilliantly by the uplifting beat that comes in to the music to take this tune soaring to the next-level. Aretha mixes serene beauty, fragile emotions, and empowering energy, throughout the epic ballad that “Love Language” starts out with, hitting the switch in this transition spot-on after a thunderclap around the 1:40 mark and making the most of her soulful tones as the beat comes in to join her. She’s got real style & soul in her voice…there might be a questionable moment or two perhaps, but the far vast majority of what you’ll hear from Aretha on the mic is exactly what your ears wanna hear.
On “Hollywood,” there’s not a single solitary second I’d question about any move Aretha makes whatsoever – this is audible perfection. I’d have no problem at all holding this track up there with the best of the best from 2019 – I felt like Henry put in such a spellbinding, captivating, and all-around outstanding performance into this song from the concept to the execution, that this mesmerizing moment in time could have stolen the entire show if it wasn’t for the quality content she’s still got coming on Mrs. Jones. “Hollywood” is a breathtaking highlight…the kind of song where you simply sit & listen, afraid to move even in the slightest if it was to mean disrupting the vibe…you sit & listen…fascinated, genuinely. For as subtle as it is, every ticking second of “Hollywood” is on the edge of your seat entertainment…you want to sit with your ears pressed right up against the speakers to absorb every moment of Aretha’s whispering, graceful, and gorgeous vocals. The mix on this tune…is absolutely amazing…I can’t even express just how many things are going completely RIGHT here on “Hollywood” – the distance between the way the music is just slightly muted and set distantly in the background gives an even livelier sound to Aretha’s vocals up front in the lead…and whether whispering sweetly in our ears or delivering her most beautifully bold, stylistic, and technique-laden tones, everything stands out for all the right reasons. Love it, love it, LOVE IT – “Hollywood” is a sparkling gem of a slow tune and a huge win for Mrs. Jones…almost like a Frank Ocean tune, or Prince home alone in the studio after hours.
The energy & instrumentation spring back to life throughout the vibes of “A Life That’s Mine” as the record plays on, sliding into a soulful jam that gets an inspired performance from Aretha. Credit to this fine lady & artist for continually flexing so much finesse, style, and swagger on the mic…she’s displayed an entire range of sounds already by this point on Mrs. Jones, and she finds herself another solidly unique groove to fill the middle of this set-list with “A Life That’s Mine.” From the sweet keys and guitars that start the song, to the impressive sound of the recording on the drums in “A Life That’s Mine” – Aretha’s just looking to have a good day on this track, roaming through lyrics that detail the struggle & what she’s going through on a daily basis just tryin’ to get from point-A to B with no hassles. Key effects applied like the call & answer effect as she’s singing between the lead & background around the two-minute mark, or the smart layers applied to the chorus to make it pop & stand-out like the writing & idea deserve…all these moves stack up to successful results. Guitars are completely on-point, the drums are outstanding, the keyboards are dreamy, the clarity all-around is stunning. and each instrument has space to make its own impact on ya. And no matter what anyone can do…no matter how good any one element of the music may be or how great it all sounds together…nothing can get you to take your ears off the main star of the show on “A Life That’s Mine” – I love the confidence & style Aretha sings with.
Being a melody-guy myself, “Day Dream” almost couldn’t help but appeal to what I love to hear in music. Not only is it full of OUTSTANDING execution and writing, but the uniqueness you’ll find in such a sweet song is more than impressive…far from your average Pop-tune in every way, and insightfully artistically designed, yet just as comparably powerful when it comes to how catchy & appealing it is. Lyrically, she’s giving you some of her best as well…musing on what life is & what it could be by comparisons & imagery in her words floating throughout “Day Dream” – but once again, Aretha also proves that it’s not just about what you’re singing – it’s entirely about how you’re singing it. It’s the amazing amount of emotion, expression, and straight-up heart she puts into this song that takes it from good to great. As awesome as it has been to listen to bolder & more energetic tunes like “Love Language” and “A Life That’s Mine” – the mid-tempo & slower tunes like “Hollywood” and “Day Dream” are rising up to speak even louder on behalf of what a truly special artist Aretha Henry really is. Love the writing on this song & I absolutely love the way Henry brought her words to life on this song…amazing. As gentle & sweet in sweet in its sentiment as it is compelling and entertaining to listen to – you’ll be more than impressed with what Aretha accomplishes with this heartfelt melody…what a beautiful tune!
LISTEN to the chorus of “Bless Your Judgmental Heart” will ya? That’s a huge hook right there is what that is…and they’re all over the place in this song! The verses are honestly just as loaded – Aretha makes the most of a modern-day R&B vibe here, sweetened with the sound of her voice and the beautiful piano melody surrounding her. Another huge highlight of Mrs. Jones – Henry goes beyond and makes the most of the microphone with a remarkably versatile performance that’ll take you right from her most isolated whispers to her most undeniably BIG notes…and she transitions like she could do this all day, every day, with stunning levels of professionalism & precision backing up all that talent she has. It all goes so much further than that…songs like “Bless Your Judgmental Heart” and “Hollywood” reveal that this artist is already thinking & executing on that next-level…these are tunes that have a style & approach that you’ll find others adopting as they try to catch up to where Aretha is already at now. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya from the get-go here though, the hooks are EVERYWHERE on these songs…it was something so apparent that a quick scan through instantly proved that…but to listen from beginning to end on how the full results came out, absolutely proves just how ready Aretha is for the mainstream. “Bless Your Judgmental Heart” contains one of the most understated and amazing hooks in a song that you’ll hear this year…so freakin’ subtle that it might even slip by you at first! And yet, in next to no time at all, you’ll find yourself needing this song like we all need AIR…Aretha sparkles & shines on this cut. Heading towards the two & a half minute mark, she LIGHTS UP the microphone and lifts this entire song up right on her shoulders before breaking it down to slide back into the chorus hooks & a smooth glide to the end. Make no mistake dear readers, dear friends…she sounds sweet & all, but clearly Aretha is focused, determined, hungry, and passionate…she’s bringing her A-game to this record, 100%, no doubt.
“Glow” is a strong ending for Mrs. Jones that reaches a bit more ambitiously & creatively in its expressive sound…the entertainment factor in the music & production raises the stakes before the album’s over. Ultimately, I think there’s an artistic & stylistic design to “Glow” that makes it slightly more niche in terms of its accessibility & universal appeal in comparison to the majority of this record, but I’m more than confident that if listeners have made it this far, they’ll happily dig on this as well and appreciate the conclusive way that it ends Mrs. Jones. Like I always say…we all have our favorite tunes, we all like what we like – for me, the slower it seemed to get, the more I appreciated what Aretha brings to the microphone, to her songwriting, and how much weight she can carry when it comes to her performances. I’m always going to have time for a vibrant melody like you’ll find on “Glow” – Henry keeps the quality flowing on-point and entertainment factor sharp…it’s built more like one giant hook than any one specific part might grab you individually, but there’s tremendous value in music designed like that as well. Bottom line is, Mrs. Jones has an immaculate range of style & sound that’s certain to catch the people’s attention one way or the other – and with the remarkable skills, diverse talent, and stunningly versatile singing voice that Aretha Henry has, believe me when I say, she’s destined to keep you paying attention from this moment on.
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