CD Review of Speakerboxxx - The Love Below by Outkast

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The Love Below
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: La Face
Released: 2003
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You are not going to like this review of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, I’m sure of it, especially if you’re an Outkast fan. However, I should preface this all by admitting that I too am an Outkast fan. But overall, I thought their latest release was inconsistent and, on several levels, disappointing. Then again, I’m not 19. My main problem with this two-disc set (Speakerboxxx is Big Boi’s contribution; The Love Below represents Andre 3000’s) is that many of the cuts start on one groove then, after you’re hooked on that initial groove, they do an about-face and go in a completely different direction. This release only certifies my belief that all you need is a couple great tracks to make any CD successful.

“The Way You Move,” off Speakerboxxx, has a nice, jazzy groove so powerful, stations that didn’t play rap started playing this single. That feat alone was worth the price of admission. So many organizations and adults frown on hip-hop, but this CD’s crossover ability may have converted more than a handful of the rap/hip-hop doubtful. “Hey Ya!” became one of the hottest songs of the year because of that crossover effect. Much more pop than rap, Andre’s smash single dominated airwaves from the moment it was released and its hilarious throwback video also hit big.

But once you get past these two singles, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below loses most of its appeal. The majority of the tracks are okay, some better than others, but these albums just don’t have that distinctive Outkast flavor we usually get from Andre and Big Boi. “War” has a nice bottom and a fresh funk feel, but while it definitely shows some promise it ends up feeling distracted. A “War” remix, which is almost inevitable with the hip-hop generation, would most likely be a hot seller, however. “Roses,” with a smooth jazz vibe, is a decent song directed toward women who think they are above everyone else. In fact, The Love Below in particular has a strong George Clinton aura for all you P-Funk fans out there.

This double-disc release was named Album of the Year, one can only assume on the strength of its two mega-hit singles. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below has its moments, for sure, but those few gems just aren’t enough to overcome the overall mediocrity of the rest of the songs. Hopefully, Andre and Big Boi will regroup, literally and figuratively, next time out to hit us with the kind of spectacular collective effort we’ve come to expect.

~Lynn Tolliver, jr.