CD Review of Just Me by Keith Sweat
Recommended if you like
Babyface, Luther Vandross,
Freddie Jackson
Label
Rhino/Atco/Keia
Keith Sweat: Just Me

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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H
ello, ladies. Are you wearing panties? You might as well just take them off now, because Keith Sweat is back.

Yes, 21 years after pioneering the New Jack sound with his Teddy Riley-produced debut, Make It Last Forever, Sweat breaks a six-year silence with Just Me, his first album for the reactivated Atco imprint. Now that the girls who shimmied in their Bongo jeans to “I Want Her” are in their 30s – and Sweat is creeping up on 50 – what’s left in his bag of tricks?

Why, the same thing that’s always been in there, of course. Baby-makin’ music.

To his credit, Sweat’s still limber enough to try a couple of new moves – most notably his decision to break out the falsetto on this album’s opening track, “Somebody” – but for the most part, this is the same Keith Sweat you heard on his other eight studio albums; he’s older, and a little more focused on the slow jams than he used to be, but he remains singularly focused on sexing the ladies (as evidenced by Just Me’s 10th track, “Just Wanna Sex You”). Considering the unholy amount of albums Sweat has sold during his career, this seems to be a winning formula, so he can hardly be blamed for sticking to it.

Keith Sweat

What he can be blamed for is trend-chasing, and inferior material, both of which are present and accounted for on Just Me. (Speaking of that title, Sweat is a bad liar: It says right here on the back cover of the CD that four of the 12 songs feature special guests.) All a successful Keith Sweat song needs is a keyboard, a drum machine, and a hook; unfortunately, not much of what’s on offer here is the least bit memorable, and what’s worse, the production is littered with pointless concessions to modern R&B trends. (Yes, even the dreaded Auto-Tune gimmick makes an appearance or two.) It seems silly to say, but Sweat’s sort of a legend, and groping for hits like this is beneath him.

It still wouldn’t be so bad if Sweat had bothered to show up with a few great songs, but Just Me is thoroughly mediocre. Before the album came out, Sweat was quoted as saying that he was concentrating on “giving the people what they expect.” From a certain point of view, these words are admirable coming from a veteran artist who’s clearly playing his commercial back nine; a lot of performers in Sweat’s position are too busy wishing they were still relevant to clearly see where their careers have taken them. The end result in this case, however, is an album that tries too hard to play it safe. It’s worked, to a certain extent – “Suga Suga Suga” was a hit earlier this year – but at the end of the day, if given a choice between listening to this album or cuing up “I Want Her” one more time, there’s little doubt you’ll opt for the latter.

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