Oh Yeah--Detrick Haddon's making a comeback for the very first time

Aug 8, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Every song on this album is good. Some of them are even great.

Cons:The weird track order sets the listener up to expect the wrong thing.

The Bottom Line: Detrick Haddon is the best gospel singer you've never heard of. How's that for an unfortunate cliche?

Detrick Haddon.

Remember that name.

It's not as though that's a difficult assignment. After all, Mr. Haddon is the Christian community's Renaissance Man; excellent at preaching, singing, songwriting and doubtless many other things. He's an assistant pastor, the former leader of underappreciated gospel group Voices of Unity, and was even award-nominated for his heavenly ballad Home. He's released five critically acclaimed albums, puts on stage shows so flashy and action packed they've been compared to those of Janet Jackson, and has made appearances with gospel superstars Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin as well as having one of his songs covered by the man all CCM listeners hate to love, Carman Licciardello.

Yet I'd be willing to bet one of the tumbleweeds blowing through the lonely epinions gospel music section that even if you like gospel music, you never heard of Detrick Haddon until his 2002 album Lost and Found, if at all.

I suppose it's appropriate, then, that the album kicks off with the introductory Mr D.J., which features a (what else?) radio d.j. running quickly through a laundry list of Haddon's accolades, specifically his previous albums. This is followed closely by D.D.. Despite its booming bass and slinky dance-floor instrumentation, this is really more of an intro than a song. Co-written by Detrick's brother and sometime musical partner Gerald Haddon, this song uses the star's nickname as a platform to sing about how regular and down to earth he is, even if he does have his picture on the cover of a CD (Because "CD" rhymes with "D.D."--get it?) In the hands of another artist, this would be completely obnoxious, but Haddon has a way of sounding very sincere and writing relatable everyman lyrics like "'Cause I'm just plain old D.D./My wife Damita calls me her baby". This makes this song, and really most of the album, pack more of a punch than it would otherwise have. Even in the midst of all of the introductions, Haddon makes his source of inspiration very clear--before he really talks about himself, he speaks of his commitment to God and ministry.

The album doesn't really begin musically until Oh Yeah. Haddon has always explored new musical directions for gospel even when he was almost completely unknown, and this is no exception. He takes a Timbaland-inspired beat, marries it to an unbelivably catchy chorus hook, and bam! instant hit. Haddon's voice is naturally a high reedy tenor, but on this track he employs a sing-songy style that actually makes him sound quite a bit like rapper Nelly. Now, before you have a flashback to the first time you heard Hot In Herre and run for the Pepto-Bismol, let me assure you that this style is a perfect counterpoint to cheeky lyrics like Church, we been silent for much too long/It's time to expose what's going on/The world can sing about booties and sing about thongs/Don't let that stop us from singing our songs. Besides, before too long, he opens up and sings normally for the chorus. Fred Hammond dynamites his way through the carefully contrived arrangement with a sudden, punchy appearance that owes a lot to his distinctive holler-whine singing voice, and BBJay closes the track out nicely by tossing in one of his customary high-energy guest raps. All of this makes a great track, but the best thing about it all is the raw energy in it. It's made for singing along and dancing to--I can actually see dance routines in my head whenever I hear this song. It's like the energy of Mary-Mary's hit Shackles:Praise You hooked up to a supersonic hyperdrive set to eleven. If you don't at least head-bob to this one, all I can say is gee, I hope your funeral was nice.

Ain't Got Nothing' slows things down quite a bit, but keeps the energy high with its lyrical emphasis on the need for love above all else. Musically, it's not that notable except for the obvious urban R&B gospel flavor that colors most of the tracks on this album, but it still has an undefinable "it" quality that makes it seem really special. Maybe it's the loopy guitars and keyboards, maybe it's the heartfelt vocals, and maybe it's just Detrick Haddon's extremely divine inspiration. Whatever it is, it carries over to Sinner's Prayer, which is both slower and more evangelically direct. Instead of taking the easy route and trying to tell sinners what to pray, Detrick takes the time to relate the concept of the sinner's prayer to his own life, both past and present. He includes a very well-placed admonition for everyone to "stop thinking holier than thou, and lift up your brother. It's a very moving song, made more so by the fact that despite the obvious emotional value of the song, Detrick Haddon exercises very tight control over his vocal performance here, keeping it tight and precise even at its most soulful. This is not a usual move for gospel trained singers at all, but it will attract fans of less flashy singing styles, and gospel lovers like myself who get annoyed by constant oversinging.

It's odd for an album to begin with a huge intro, box your ears with a huge high energy party song, but then descend into a series of ever-slowing ballads, but that's exactly what Lost and Found does. My Prayer actually reminds me of a lot of early nineties R&B ballads in formula. There's a few slidy chorus/verse alternations leading up to a bridge and breakdown made for over-emoting, but thankfully a very churchy organ keeps the comparison from going too far. For once,Haddon also forsakes tight vocal control for an old-school approach, hollering, whining, and grinding out notes like an old deacon heading up testimony service, but he pulls it off very well.

The Praises Go(Up, Up, Up) has a definite salsa influence to it. Assisted by a small chorus and some catchy praise instructions in the verses, Detrick Haddon manages to come up with a track that is very reminiscent of Kurt Carr's and the Alberto Salas Band's We Offer You Praise but is somehow much more fun. Resting Place slows things down again, illustrating the concept of God as a resting place using syncopated guitars, flutes, and drums and a truly lovely female backing vocal as a backdrop.

From here the album segues into an awkward segment of songs that fit more into a traditional gospel sound but not necessarily into the album as a whole. I say awkward only because up until this point, the album sets the listener up to expect to hear very non-traditional forms of gospel all the way through. After songs like Oh Yeah and The Praises Go(Up, Up, Up), it's a bit of a auditory shock to hear songs like Stand Still. Although this song was written solely by Haddon, it sounds like the type of thing guest singer Donnie McClurkin would write--it molds around his comforting baritone much more readily than Haddon's squeaky-by-comparison voice. As a result, Haddon turns in one of his poorer vocal turns on this one, sounding thin and whiny next to McClurkin's full and mature stylings. Worship Medley suffers from some of the same problems, although this time comparison doesn't cause him to sound thin, the sparse instrumentation and extreme slowness of the medley do. Besides that, the two songs in the medley--The Joy of the Lord and Oh The Glory aren't at all familiar, like gospel medley songs tend to be. Instead, they're Haddon-penned worship songs, and I have the same problem with them that I do with most recorded worship. I love worship, I love to sing worship, but I don't like hearing it. I just don't want to pay to hear something I could have recorded in my bathroom with just as much impact and loads more personal meaning. Sometimes such songs are beautiful in their simplicity and I don't mind them, as in the case of many of the older gospel classics, but this is not one of those cases.

Thankfully, things rev back up two songs later with Lost and Found. It's a slick, fast ditty that owes more of its influence to Michael Jackson than to Andrae Crouch. In fact, Haddon has a weird way of going not-quite falsetto on the really high notes that when paired with all of the extraneous "woo"'s and "ch-ah"'s on this track, remind me very strongly of the Gloved One. No matter, this title track sounds good, and brings back a much needed measure of lyrical depth as well. Haddon scritches and scratches through a thought-provoking assertion that this album is for the lost and the found--both Christians and non-Christians, in other words. I'm not sure the whole album really has a broad enough appeal, but that seems to be what Detrick Haddon is going for. It's certainly got its share of hooky choruses, but is that enough for mainstream appeal? In any case, the "lost and found" concept is a familiar one that might sound grating and patronizing to a lot of non-Christians, and for that reason, I'm glad this song wasn't released as a single.

There's a very cute skit where Haddon calls his grandmother from the studio and has a very uplifting conversation with him about missing loved ones; the similarly themed follow-up song, After While is all dramatic piano chording and bittersweet vocals. It's nice, but Tonex, that other reedy urban gospel tenor, did it better with Cry No More.

Lost And Found Part II is a stripped down reprise of part 1, featuring only Detrick's simple vocals and more than competent piano playing. It's stripped down of all of the raw elemental power of the first take, but it gains beauty and grace instead. I'm not a fan of remixes and reprises, but this is one of the best takes on that idea that I've heard lately.

Mrs. Damita Haddon, best known for her hard-hitting gospel rock duet Truth with Toby Mac, penned the only non-Detrick written tune on the album, This Happiness, with Shaun Carrington. She even shows up to duet jazzily with her husband Detrick for four and a half of the sweetest minutes on the album. The slow-cruising melody and summertime instrumentals transition perfectly into the upbeat slap and stomp rhythms of Anyhow. I could hear This Happiness being sung at a trendy wedding or a jazz festival, while Anyhow is more suited for a small but high-spirited gospel choir.

The album ends on the same impossibly energetic high note that it began on, with Wanna Dance. This is another one that has me composing dance routines in my head, even though I can't dance. Unlike Oh Yeah which lampoons so-called "urban" music trends while simultaneously replicating some of them, Wanna Dance stands alone, a high-quality track that would play on the dance floor, in a high-octane church service, in a car, in a DJ mix, or any other location that requires pure energy and extreme beats to get people's interest. Featuring a guest rap by Emazin', it slides from snappy sung verses and a stop-start chorus to an extremely attention-getting scat and beatbox routine, all over the type of beat that gets dismissed by a lot of gospel artists for being too secular. The lyrics attribute Detrick Haddon's reason for wanting to dance to the grace of God, and because the track is very far from the corny type of thing that songs with that theme usually are, the whole thing holds up really well, providing a perfect close to a pretty solid album.

So is this a good album? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Will it reach the masses of "lost and found"? I don't know. I do know that this is an energetic and high quality album. well worth five stars despite its structural pitfalls, and that's a start.

Because I'm trying to be a good reviewer:
Similar artists include Tonex and The Katinas

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