Two years ago, R&B’s reigning sweet songbird, Chrisette Michele, introduced us to her polite, jazzy sound with I Am, her astonishing debut CD, which eventually achieved gold certification. This month, the Grammy winner returns with a funky new attitude on her bold sophomore effort, Epiphany, which finds her rekindling the flame that endeared us to her soulful breakout hits “If I Have My Way” and “Best of Me”.
If I Am was a gorgeous intro to a talented newcomer, Epiphany can only be described as an impressive second act, which delivers something old and something new. We get to hear Michele riding some danceable up-tempo beats ("Fragile", "Mr. Right") but we are also treated to that slow and intoxicating smooth balladry ("On My Own", "Blame It On Me") we’ve grown accustomed to. At its best, the album echoes such musical influences as Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Alicia Keys.
On Epiphany, Michele mainly tackles relationships and heartache, the nervous tension of moving on after a failed relationship and the joys of learning to love again. You fervently follow her as she traverses the peaks and valleys life, love, anxiety and pain. The raw emotion she pours into the record, especially on standout cuts like "I’m Okay" and "All I Ever Wanted", is both haunting and real. She gets excellent support from R&B’s resident gentleman, Ne-Yo, who co-wrote/co-produced several tracks on the album and lends vocal support on "What You Do".
Sophisticated lyrics and sugary melodies are part of Michele’s charm and we are reminded of her penchant for colorful key changes and soaring dynamics. It is obvious, too, that Michele has matured both as a woman and an artiste as the evidence is crystal clear on this recording. On the gorgeous title track she says good riddance to a no-good man, vowing to love and put herself first. Whatever she does is executed with class, which makes her songs all the more alluring and meaningful. Fellow singer-songwriters Ciara and Keri Hilson, though talented artistes in their own rights, should take a page out of her book.
Epiphany, which now sits atop the Billboard 200 Album Chart, should delight Michele’s loyalists while wooing new followers. Like Jill Scott’s The Real Thing, Alicia Keys’ As I Am and India.Arie’s Testimony Volume 2: Love & Politics, it has the right depth and is positively and charmingly infectious.
DOWNLOAD: “Fragile”, “Blame It On Me”, “Porcelain Doll” and “Epiphany”