It seems like every year, there are fewer and fewer artists I’m really checking for. Maybe it’s because as I get older, I’m less concerned with the new club jam and prefer music that has longevity. The artists I loved as a child who were considered “old school” (Anita Baker, Earth Wind & Fire, etc) are still in my regular rotation. Now the acts I loved in middle school are considered throwbacks and the music industry has undergone a sea change.
One thing I always have been, and forever will be, is an R&B junkie. Right now, the culture is all about trap music and besides Beyonce and Trey Songz, there’s not much R&B to speak of. John Legend drops a rehash of second album every few years, and Anthony Hamilton is still making his trademark gospel love songs. But there are no true successors to singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, who gave us songs to dance to, power ballads, and everything in between. Mariah Carey can deliver a hit, but she very much straddles the line between pop and R&B. While she’s good for featuring a rapper (as evidenced by her recent collaboration with YG), you’ll never get anything close to a trap beat from Ms. Carey. But Ms. Luckett, on the other hand? She’ll bring the fire.
LeToya Luckett was, and remains, the most underrated member of Destiny’s Child. LaTavia pretty much fell off the face of the earth, nobody expected much from Michelle, and Kelly started getting her just due when she released her third solo album in 2011. However, LeToya’s lack of notoriety in the music world is partially her own fault. She released a solid debut album in 2006 which had a fairly popular single with Slim Thug (“She Don’t“), but otherwise was largely forgotten by everyone except me. 2009’s Lady Love was better because it established that LeToya was giving up on pop crossover songs and committing to the R&B genre. In the 8 years between albums LeToya has acted in three movies, three tv shows, and several gospel plays. While Kelly and Beyonce have both dabbled in acting, since Destiny’s Child final split they consistently put out albums every 2-3 years.
Still, Back 2 Life was worth the wait. LeToya has delivered a quintessential R&B album that’s fun, relatable, catchy, and easy to sing along to. It’s current, but LeToya doesn’t just mimic the trends. She takes the elements that work with her sound and makes them her own. She also put her acting skills to use by tying together the music videos for her three singles (Back 2 Life, Used To, In the Name of Love) and created a mini movie. LeToya clearly put a lot of thought, effort, and intentionality behind this album and it shows. If you like good music, give it a try!