The Rebirth * Eric Bellinger * R&B * February 11, 2014

The grandson of Jackson 5 songwriter Bobby Day, music is deep in singer/songwriter Eric Bellinger’s blood.  Starting out as a member of the group AKNU (A Kind Never Understood), Bellinger almost immediately began to draw attention for his songwriting ability.  Deciding to try to hone his talent with other like him, he joined The Writing Camp with the likes of Sonyae Elise, Erika Nuri, and Ravaughn Brown.  There, he wrote songs for artists like Chris Brown (Fine China), Dev (Kiss It), Selena Gomez (Intuition), and Usher (Lemme See).  He became best know for his romantic and sexual songs, having a flare for making the most overused concepts pop in new ways.

Gaining a following through his writing, Bellinger began to release a series of mixtapes entitled Born II Sing that became online sensation because of their solid production, interesting lyrics, and confident vocals.  With the last installment of the series actually charting on iTune, Bellinger decided it was time to make a move to create an official release.

Can Bellinger move out of the arena of mixtape and make people want to shell out money for his music?  Hold on to your mouse because, at 32 total tracks, this is going to be a long one.

0101.  The Rebirth – A great intro to start off the set; a shout-out to the fans before leading into the double entendre meaning.

0102.  Double Entendre – Misnamed for the most part.  The title is weak considering that the “read between the lines” punch line only appears during the chorus.  Also, the say yeah, yeah filler lines are obvious because of how long the lyrical phrases are.  Despite the lyrical missteps, this is some of Bellinger’s best beat and vocal work to date.  On the plus side, this is probably one of the better verse (up to this point) by Sage the Gemini and it does work within the framework of the song.

0103.  I Don’t Want Her – The lead single from this album, the concept is about liking it when other men look at his woman to the point that he doesn’t want a woman that other men aren’t checking for.  The Kris Kross sample falls a little flat, as the original baseline has been taken out, and makes Bellinger’s voice sound shallow.  The Problem verse seems like a bit of a throw away and the track could actually be better served if it were dropped.

0104.  Drake’s Ex – The title immediately evokes a giggle from anyone even slightly familiar with rap artist Drake’s history with women.  Reminiscent of a Drake song right down to it’s nearly monotone vocals, it is about  the girl who gave up on the relationship she had with him on suspicions of him cheating before he made it big.  This shows Bellinger’s strength in writing and production; he is able to evoke the sense of another artist without at all sounding like he’s blatantly biting his style.

0105.  Gift & Curse – This has a great acappella opener that draws you into an original concept about his new girlfriend being so amazing that his ex-girlfriend (who is usually hateful) is happy for him.  The vocals here are lacking as Bellinger’s voice is not strong enough to compete with the lush trackwork, but some of it is made up for at the end of the song when he begins to adlib over the acappella.

0106.  Delorean – With nice off-kilter beatwork that compliments his voice and matches the concept, Bellinger has a winner in this track.  About having the perfect girlfriend but desiring an imperfect ex, the Back to the Future connection is well used here.  The biggest complaint is that the song needs to be longer.

0107.  Catch 22 – The duet between Bellinger and newcomer Sevyn Streeter is really something to hear.  Their solo vocals are complimentary and their harmonies are full with neither artist trying to outdo the other.  A song about hating being with someone but not wanting them to be with anyone else, it is refreshing to listen to this concept coming from the aspects of both sexes.  It makes it sound more like an unstable relationship where both people are aware of the problems instead of one person being overly obsessive about the other.  The production here is elegant, with barely audible touches that flush out what could have been a bare-bones track.

0108.  Liquid Courage – The harmonies here with Victoria Monet are nice but the lyrics are highly forgettable.  The concept is about trying to approach a potential one-night stand.  The lackluster production here doesn’t help either.  What was probably intended to be a mellow lullaby-styled song about going to bed will make the listener a little sleepy.

0109.  The First Lady – An entirely too short song about treating the woman in his life like she is everything and just as important as FLOTUS.  The production is upbeat and a little deceptive (in a good way) as it starts out with a spastic tribal beat that, somehow, seamlessly blends into sexy mid-tempo ballad.  Bellinger’s vocals are completely engaged and engaging, with emphatic tones that let you know he is serious about what he is singing.

0110.  Kiss Goodnight – This is a basic sex song.  The vocals are strong here, with Bellinger’s tone, at times, changing to the point that you might think someone else is singing.  The beatwork, which makes great use of a BLACKstreet sample, make it stand out from an increasingly large crowd.  The Kid Ink verse is a surprising compliment to the track, as well, not sounding forced at all.  Of course, this is Eric’s bread and butter; making a compelling babymaker, and he does not disappoint.

0111.  Pandora – Another basic sex song that delves into the ratchet territory about having sex while listening to the internet-based radio site.  The beat here is underutilized as Bellinger, while having a good sound, does not have the most versatile voice.  The song is not bad, but would would have worked better in the hands of another artist.

0112.  Jump the Gun – A song about trying to talk a woman into sleeping with him, Bellinger again shows why he is the go-to man for this type of thing.  While the song is actually under three minutes, it doesn’t really need to be any longer.  The production is solid and makes you want to listen and, when teamed with Bellinger’s vocals, you have a song that works despite it’s common lyrical content.  Even the pop phrasework of ayo, ayo, ayo works here in a way that it doesn’t in most songs.

0113.  Your Favorite Song – A concept based around his production tag, it is really good concept about how good his music can make you feel and how he can seduce you through it.  The minimalist beat should not work here, but it adds flair to the seduction angle and allows Bellinger’s vocals to stand out without him having to be too verbose.  A solid track all around.

0114.  Imagination – Using a sample from the song Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this song is about Bellinger asking his lady to tell him about how she makes due while he’s away.  Bellinger’s falsetto is not the best and it is a little overused here, but he buys it back a little with some of the strong adlibs and harmonies.  Still, this might have been better served by taking things down an octave.

0115.  Amateur Night – This is a song about how he would rather watch is girlfriend dance than go to a strip club.  The vocals play well with the steamy production here, with Bellinger showing that he can accomplish the more mellow tones with ease (to the point that his falsetto sounds sexy as well).

0116.  Reward – The concept centers around how he appreciates all the things that his lover does for him, even though he doesn’t expect her to do them.  You don’t often hear a song like this from a male singer and that takes the concept to a new level.  Bellinger’s vocals are the backbone to this track, as he lays down the melody without any assistance from the backing track.  A refreshing and solid track.

0201. Usher Intro/Bed Medicine – A song from his Born II Sing, Vol. III mixtape, this is song about how his lovin’ can cure all your ills.  While the beginning of this track features his shaky falsetto, Bellinger’s vocals level out and, teamed with the sexy production, you find yourself interested in this to the point you might hit rewind to immediately relisten.

0202.  ASAP – The first single from his Born II Sing, Vol. III mixtape, the simplistic but sensual production makes it sound like Bellinger is whispering his pickup lines in your ear.  A song that essential breaks down to a man spitting game to a woman he just met, what should be a highly uninteresting track is finessed into a standout.

0203.  Club Lights – Another track from Born II Sing, Vol. III, this is an oddly introspective piece about how the atmospherics of a club can lead to bad decisions.  While it is obvious that Tank isn’t trying to outsing Bellinger, his smooth tone just makes him run away with this song.  The production here is mid-tempo but oddly danceable, to the point where you might hear it in a club for a ladies’ choice.

0204.  Body Language – From Born II Sing, Vol. III, there is a lushness to the first chord in the production that makes you stick around from the rest of song by itself.  The duality of the lyrics her is beautifully constructed, as it can be construed as a track about sex or about showing emotion through action.  Bellinger’s vocals are coaxing and sexy without being overdone.  A solid track despite its less than three-minute running time.

0205.  R&B Singer – An extended version of a track from Born II Sing, Vol. III, this song is pretty similar to Drake’s Ex on the first disc.  About him being upset that his partner doesn’t trust him despite the fact that he admits he sleeps with his groupies, this is a song more for the men in Bellinger’s fanbase.  And while his vocals are not bad, what takes this song down is the intrusion of Joe Budden.  The gruffness to the rapper’s voice is at odd with the smoothness of the production which is, itself, at odd with the concept.

0206.  Get a Loan – This is an interest use of a concept.  From Born II Sing, Vol. III, this song is about wanting to cheat on his lady with a “loaner.”  The vocals highlight Bellinger’s ability to create melodies wholesale without the assistance of a backbeat.  The production is seductive and the lyrics, while definitely on the raunchy side, bring the concept to life.

0207.  Circle of Love – Another deceptive beat that sounds like it’s about to go into a club song and then leads into a ballad, this is a great track.  About how relationships have their ebbs and flows, the vocals here are great and some of the best in the set.  The harmonies meld seamlessly with the beatwork and the lyrics are intriguing while managing to be accessible (and a little ratchet).

0208.  9 Lives – The first new song on the second disc, this is an explicit sex song (think about what has nine lives).  Bellinger’s vocals are hit and miss here, with sections of the song being absolutely wrecked by autotune.  Ty Dolla $ign does well with his vocals and verse (although the autotune is obvious with him, too), but Too $hort’s verse is short and pointless and he sounds disinterested in what he is doing.  The lyrics are straightforward and the production is a little to gentle for the subject matter.  While you might pay some attention to the beatwork, the song as a whole is forgettable.

0209.  Do 4 Love – Using a sample from Bobby Caldwell’s classic What You Won’t Do for Love, this song is about having enough respect in yourself to not fall for every line that you hear (which runs counter to just about every other song in this collection).  Produced by Midi Mafia, the beatwork is somewhat wanting as Bellinger’s minimalist vocals manage to outdo it.

0210.  Road Trip – Released as a teaser track for this collection, this is a solid love song.  About going of into the sunset with that special someone, the bouncy production is a perfect compliment to Bellinger’s upbeat vocals.  The lyrics are simplistic, but solid, lending to an atmosphere of honesty that can sometime be absent from songs like this.

0211. Same Ol’ – A track that was highly awaited by R&B fans of the 90’s, this is a babymaker that features the vocal talents of the legendary Jon B.  Unfortunately, the production of this song kills the momentum because it sounds like there are two songs playing on top of one another.  Bellinger’s vocals are also a little off, as he sounds as if he’s underwater several times throughout.  Jon B is also woefully underutilized, leaving you hungry for more.

0212.  Or Nah (Remix) – There is no clear reason why this is called a remix to Ty Dolla $ign’s Or Nah because the only thing it has in common with that song is the use of the phrase itself.  The beatwork, lyrics, and rhythm are complete original.  Even the concepts are different, as this song is about asking trying to convince a woman to give in to his advances and the original covered several subjects.  While not the deepest song in existence, it is enjoyable and will likely have you replaying it a few times.

0213.  My Queen – Another song that is dragged down some by the use of autotune on the chorus.  Sounding a little bit like a continuation of songs like First Lady and Reward or a male answer to songs like Upgrade U and Countdown, this song gets points for the solid production and Bellinger’s enthusiastic vocals.  The song as a whole, however, just comes of as filler to round out the 16 tracks on this disc.

0214.  Ride It – Featured on Born II Sing, Vol. II, the smooth production that is a Bellinger signature makes a welcomed return here.  An odd combination of sensual and ratchet sexy, the beat is aided by the softness of Christina Milian’s guest vocals and harmonies flow together well with his, except for an overblown final note.  While not Bellinger’s best lyrical work and somewhat forgettable, the song creates the mood of seduction that it set out to.

0215.  Nude – Just when it seems as though the latter half the second disc will be nothing but filler, Bellinger brings it back to basics with a song that was only meant to serve as teaser track for Born II Sing, Vol. III and garnered him most of his recent attention.  Featured on the In the Meantime mixtape, this song shows the strength of his vocal and writing talents.  A concept that centers around telling his lady that she doesn’t need all the extras when they are about to make love, this is an entrancing track.  With a production pulsing with sexuality, this is the artist at his best.

0216.  So Good – A favorite of many Bellinger fans that was featured on the original Born II Sing, this is the perfect song to go out on.  His vocals are strong, yet mellow, complimenting the gentle production and loving concept.  About trying to get a woman to give him a chance (and not sexually), he spends the song telling her that he can do better for her than the man she is currently with.  Somehow managing to turn a song that is almost pure braggadocio into something titillating and vulnerable, this track is a standout.

What we end up with is an album that, despite some of its lyrical deficiencies and skippable tracks, is an enjoyable experience for the listener.  Definitely worth the cost, the double-disc set that serves as a greatest hits collection and the new album is a promising introduction to the artist for those who are unfamiliar with him.  Full of worthwhile babymakers, this a collection that will be a go-to for those special nights with that special someone.

 

Rating:  3.5

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