What the fuck is Van Hunt doing, man?
His new album, On the Jungle Floor, is just as unclassifiable as his 2004 self-titled debut. The record has him bouncing from retro-funk to hard rock to tender love ballads without so much as a warning. Doesn't he know that shit doesn't fly with black people? The tunes from his first album weren't exactly blazing urban radio, and I'm pretty sure his new stuff won't be heavily rotated either. We want our songs to be interchangeable, coming one after the other so we always think we're hearing one continuous tune. We want love songs about strippers, rap tunes about how to cook up crack, and the same damn beats and samples in every damn song. You can't just spring this eclectic shit on a black person and expect him not to retaliate from the shock!
Case in point: I played Jungle for my fitness trainer and a fellow client the day after I got it. My trainer, yet another in a long line of black women in my life who isn't afraid to tell it like it is, was all too ready to voice her opinion on the singer. "He sounds wet behind the ears," she said. "He sounds like Prince. I don't think he's gonna go very far." She also found some tunes a bit depressing. Good thing I didn't play his first CD, which includes the soulfully melancholic "Down Here in Hell (With You)."
Hunt will probably garner more comparisons to the Purple One, especially since Prince is back on the scene with a No. 1 album. (I personally prefer to think of Hunt's sound as more of a Curtis Mayfield-Shuggie Otis amalgam.) But if he truly picked up anything from Prince, it's the daring, ballsy decision to fuse rock and soul without worrying if black folk will dig it. Of course, in Prince's case black folk eventually dug it, and he became a pop icon in the process. So, whaddaya say, my brothas and sistas, are you willing to give an off-the-beaten-path singer-songwriter a chance, or are you content with just listening to Ne-Yo or Chris Brown or Ray J or any other young-ass, label-backed crooner all damn day long?
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