Trey Songz Opens A Much-Read Book To Chapter V

Much of R&B has been devoted to negotiating the relationship between men and women, and Trey Songz has always been traditional in that regard. His new album, Chapter V is organized neatly into three sections. The first and longest section is a hedonistic celebration of the player lifestyle (note the line "I only came for the bitches and the drinks," from the song "2 Reasons"). That's followed by slowed-down laments of a love wasted; the album ends with two alternate-ending anthems. Spoiler alert: Trey ends up happy and/or sad, depending on which song you take more seriously.

Songz hasn't released an album since 2010, and one might think that Chapter V would at least react to recent developments in R&B—perhaps it would include a couple of existential investigations into the idea of religion as a metaphor for unrequited love, or detail a drug-sparked orgy. Musically, he's hardly shifted from the sounds of his last album, an upbeat, high-sheen R&B with the occasional synth pattern or guitar thrown in for exoticism. And though he does rap a bit on "Playin' Hard" and (the great) "Pretty Girl's Lie," he mostly sticks to his guns (gunz?), a decaf version of R. Kelly with a slightly weaker voice and without Kelly's gift for tawdry, compelling songwriting.

To be fair, Songz is from the post-Kells generation, which is filled with singers standing firmly in the shadow of the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest." He, though, refuses to wriggle out and claim space for a separate identity, and without a signature musical sound, there's not much to distinguish him from being a lesser imitation of his idol.

But that's not to say that he doesn't know how to execute the blueprint. For instance, he knows his way around the extended metaphor, as exemplified on the song "Dive In," in which the pool in question is a vagina and Songz plans to execute a full 400 IM. "Splash!" he croons amiably before denoting all the strokes that he plans to put into action. It's a good song, smooth and catchy, and anchored by a simple, ludicrous premise. (By the way, Trey's thing, now that he is no longer Mr. Steal Your Girl, is apparently being the "Panty Wetter." At least, that's the title of the next song.)

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