I know Frank Ocean and Miguel got the biggest buzz in 2012, but for my money Steven A. Clark stole the show in this whole 'new R&B' movement everyone is trying to label. If you like the aforementioned artists, and others like Maxwell and P.M. Dawn, I urge you to check this album out. Fornication Under Consent Of The King comes in at #13 in my Best Albums of 2012. My original review is below.
Favorite tracks: "Not Ready", "Just Ride", "She's In Love", "Lonely Roller"
I've become pretty disillusioned with the R&B genre and that's pretty easy to do when you consider the cookie cutter garbage that gets radio play. It's a format I grew up loving, but with the exception of Maxwell, few mainstream R&B artists have excited me in the last decade or so. But there is a growing group of artists forging a new road for soul music. Of course the initial reaction is to come up with a new name for the genre with some referring to it as 'Future R&B'. Think Frank Ocean or How To Dress Well. Whatever you want to label it, make sure you add the name Steven A. Clark to the list and with his new album Fornication Under Consent of the King, (yes F.U.C.K. for short), Clark rockets to the forefront of this movement.
It's a special album that gets me this ecstatic and I was floored after listening to Clark's new one. I'm thrilled to have an R&B album that moves me again, although Clark incorporates other influences into his music. There are touches of hip-hop, electronic music, rock and pop here as well, but soaring through it all is his soulful voice. This is Clark's second full length and this time he lays his soul bare as he explores a relationship from its blissful beginnings to its bitter end. Written, recorded and produced almost entirely by Clark, the album serves as a deeply personal statement on the end of a long term relationship and his building pain as the album moves into its second half is entirely relatable for anyone who has experienced similar heartbreak.
Clark lists Stevie Wonder, Sade and The Neptunes amongst his many influences, but seeing that he cites P.M. Dawn as one of his favorite acts growing up makes perfect sense when the album kicks off with "F.U.C.K. Pt. 1". The song borrows the beats from "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" amongst others and is a nice nod to that early 90's era of alternative hip-hop and R&B that P.M. Dawn waded in. "Lonely Roller" has an insistent guitar loop and features both Victoria Blue providing backing vocals and J NICS dropping a guest rap.
There's not a bad song among the ten on the album but two in particular stand out to me. "Not Ready" has a laid back groove and harmonic backing vocals reminiscent of Boyz II Men. It's an outstanding slow jam worthy of owning radio if radio played music based on quality. "Just Ride" is the other stand-out, an electro-R&B groove tailor made for blasting with the windows down on a hot summer night.
As things go downhill in the album's storyline, Clark's lyrics become more intense and defeated. "She's In Love" has an instantly memorable melody but confesses 'She's in love... but not in love with me', as he realizes the betrayal at hand. Everything comes to a head on "Don't Have You", as he spits out all the bile that has built up inside over the end of the relationship. It's a mix of almost rapping the verses while singing and it has the desired effect to get across his mix of seething anger and hurt. In direct contrast is the soft closing ballad "Superhero Re:Orchestrated", a reflective, lovely close to a superb album.
Amazingly, Fornication Under Consent of the King is available as a free download. It astounds me that an album this stellar is available for free, but in this day and age of illegal downloads, it can work to a new artist's advantage to get their music heard. It's up to music lovers to help spread the word and bring wider exposure to the quality stuff. I can't emphasize enough, grab this album. By far one of the best R&B albums you'll hear in 2012.
Fornication Under Consent of the King was released September 11, 2012 via L&E Media Co