Passion Like Fire Tamia * R&B * September 7, 2018

It’s been three years since Tamia released her last album and fans were excited.  Love Life ended up being a quintessential part of her discography and, now that she is on an independent label that offers her more freedom from sales quotas, she can really give us something that reflects her passion for music and show us that she still has that fire within her to make whatever she drops great.  The lead single, Leave It Smokin’ set the tone for a project that was equal parts a fun and longevity-having track and, we hoped, that she would wind that feeling thoughout the rest of the set.

And, for the most part, she managed to do all that.

There are very few moments when listening to this album that, as listener who loves the singer or loves R&B, will leave you completely disappointed.  This is Tamia’s show and she gives the listener what they came for.  She is always engaged, always giving her best, and always singing to you in that way that makes you feel the emotion behind every thing that she belts out.  She starts of the album with a romantic ballad and things keep a fair pace from that moment on, never swaying in quality in terms of what she delivers in tone, pitch and pathos.  If the rest of the album had been as well done as the vocal aspect, this could have been a classic; but there are some issues that are hard to ignore.

One of the things that has been an unfortunate consistency across the breath discography has been the vast sway in the quality of her lyrics.  We can’t think of a moment where Tamia has given us lyrics where the songs don’t make sense, but there are a lot of moments where the songs are filled with platitudes that hinge entirely on her performance to make them interesting.  But, just like her other albums, there are also moments of lyrical beauty that enhance the experience of listening to her sing; the Stranger In My House of the albums.  This time around, the song is Deeper and it gives you some beautifully poetic line about love and how it changes you as a person and the way you view the world with the songstress delivering some her best vocals on the album to a piano accompaniment.  It is the type of power ballad that most singers wish they had and, while those who are looking for driving beats won’t appreciate it, lovers of strong vocals will be addicted.

Speaking of beats, that is a mixed bag for this project.  It can be hard for a producer to match a strong beat with a strong singer at times.  Go too far in making the production distinctive on its own and you run the risk of overwhelming the listeners’ ears if the performance isn’t pulled back in sections.  Tamia is not the kind of singer that pulls her punches when it comes to her voice and, in the rare moments she does, it doesn’t serve her well.  Because of that, the beatwork on this set is pretty non-distinct.   It’s never bad, but it can be very easy to tune out that aspect of every song and just listen to Tamia.  The most you can say about the actual instrumentation is that, besides Leave It Smokin’, is that it’s pretty generic.

It may sound like we’re downing this album but it’s more a matter of understanding where its strength lies.  Make no mistake, this album is good…just not as good as it could have been.  It speaks to the caliber or the singer that, despite how good it is, that it doesn’t quite match her best.  But just because this album doesn’t reach heights of Love Life, Between Friends, or her self-titled debut doesn’t mean that you can’t find a lot to enjoy in it.  Tamia should be commended for stepping out of what could be her comfort zone and playing with different production styles and rising to the challenge in a way that she hasn’t in the past.  What is the biggest issue is that the songs are arranged in such a way that it can be a bit of a jolt as you jump from style to style and that can immediately take you out of the moment just as you sink in.  This is absolutely one of the best R&B albums that has come out this year, it just may not be the album that you can play straight through like some of her others.  We suggest a stream before buying but we strongly encourage a listen because it is worth it.

Our favorite tracks are When The Sun Comes Up, Tell Me HowDeeper, and Better.  The most skippable track is Lost In You.

Rating: 3.5