I loved Destiny's Child-- at least, I did until Beyonce decided her weave deserved more face time than the other girls in the group. After the band released the chart-topping Survivor, the group disbanded, and each of the girls started a solo career, each of which was quite successful. Michelle Williams, the latest addition to the pop group, released some immensely successful and respectable gospel album-- in other words, the fact that she came back to another pop album doesn't shock anybody. It's not exactly unexpected. What is unexpected, though, is that she sounds 90x different on this album than she ever has. She's a lot more bubbly.
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I first heard lead-off single We Break the Dawn weeks before I got wind of the album, and I fell hard for it. Despite the music production being less than stellar (actually, it sounds very, very cheap), the melody is very catchy. I loved how strange Michelle sounded here-- I couldn't believe this was the same girl who sang with Destiny's Child. Then again, Beyonce never let the other girls get a word in edgewise. The lyrics, for a rather generic dance song, are enjoyable and suit the mood of this late-night mellow jam. So, when I finally got a hold of the record, I was very excited to hear how Michelle had changed her sound.
Well, she certaintly changed her sound. Unfortunately, the results of Unexpected are less-than-great. We start the record off with a video game-inspired interlude, during which Michelle expectantly says "Expect...the unexpected." The irony escapes no where. The techno-edge to the introduction, though, truly doesn't lead on to how strange this album really is. And, at least it's new. Unexpected combines that generic new-millennium hip hop sound (a la Flo-Rida and the like) with an electro-cocktail. Hello Heartbreak is almost there in terms of being a great song, but it feels a little rough still, and her vocals are all over the place-- even if it's got a great hook. Lucky Girl continues in this trend, except that it's just plain not catchy and way overproduced, akin to Britney's Circus or Janet's Damita Jo.
Aside from our lead-off single, there are two other tracks that stand out above the rest. Til The End of the World is an electronic sound with a piano backing, again drawing from a video game place-- it's very much a slow song I'd expect to see in a Dance Dance Revolution game. I think her vocals are very cute, but I don't know how serious I take her. The follow track, Private Party, is another track that I really enjoyed. This takes new-school electronica and mashes it up with a 1990s house sound-- Ace of Base vs. Sophie Ellis Bextor. The lyrics, though, would make a feminist boil inside: "You can rest your feet and unwind ... I'll cater to you, make you feel like man. I can." I can't tell if this is sweet or degrading. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt because this song is just so damn catchy.
Unfortunately, that's where this album is over for me. Private Party is the exactly middle of this hot 13-track mess, and I'm already spent. Every other song lacks atmosphere, effort, or is just plain mediocre. Stop This Car could have been a good song, but the cheap, awful production makes it one of those dime-a-dozen slow, downbeat songs. "Stop this car-- I don't wanna ride no more. Cause it's just too fast, and you won't pump the brakes. Slow down and hear what I have to say." I must say that I absolutely adored the lyrics, but the terrible Casio-keyboard backing track makes me cringe. It's honestly not listenable.
This album bummed me out to the extreme. I expected this album to be really good, especially since I adore Michelle's soft vocals. I guess I should taken her advice and expected it to be a steaming pile. And that's always how I'll remember it. Now, stop this damn car.
We Break the Dawn
Lucky Girl Interlude/Lucky Girl
Till the End of the World
We Break the Dawn 2
Stop This Car
Too Young For Love