Although Angie Stone never quite turned into the next big thing many predicted she would become, the neo-soul singer has been turning it out with commendable success for more than a decade.
But her new “Rich Girl” is an embarrassment of riches. Or more precisely, a minor case of overkill.
“Rich Girl” is one of those releases that finds its groove early and sticks to it. And then keeps going till it wears down its welcome.
The polished collection of songs is comfortable and familiar — lyrically, musically — and Stone is the shimmer in the mix, a beautiful, empathetic voice who doesn’t typically oversing to make her case.
She welcomes listeners with her introductory praise for “real music” (i.e. her kind of music), and sets about blending her gorgeous vocals into an earthy blend of R&B and funk. There’s instant reward from the layered “Backup Plan,” where she acknowledges women’s vulnerability for attracting losers yet credits them for their resourcefulness (“Every woman’s got a backup plan”). Meanwhile, her searing soul on “Guilty” helps her get away with the old “guilty for loving you” shtick, and her call for celebration in the well-constructed “Livin’ It Up” seems deceptively effortless.
There’s more dime-store philosophy boxed in the slogans of “Alright” and “Do What You Gotta Do,” lyrics that could be printed on photos of sunrises and shared all over Facebook, but the kicky cadences and decorous vocals make them more inviting.
However as “Rich Girl” continues to share the wealth, it feels repetitive and increasingly like background music (the 15 tracks easily could have been shaved to nine or 10).
At least Stone rebounds at the end with the finger-snapping anthem “Sisters,” a warm tribute to the enduring love of close friends.
The singer is no less reliable for her fans, though “Rich Girl” is of relative value.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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