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Music Review: Lenny Kravitz – It is Time for a Love Revolution

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‘Lost in Emotion’

Like most artists who grew up with a wide appreciation of several music forms, it is difficult to place Lenny Kravitz into exactly which genre he belongs. Case in point: he got shifted into alternative soul because of a constant guitar presence and that only helped him to win four consecutive Grammys for male rock vocal performances. There is another reason too; like this year’s so happening group, Vampire Weekend, he is an artist clearly with an affluent background. There ends the similarities though because while that band can push off from their upbringing and relish it on record, Kravitz always sounds too keenly aware of his privilege and the struggle to escape it is a constant hurdle of his new album, It is Time for a Love Revolution.

It’s a lot of hurdles but his music production isn’t one of them, thankfully. It’s to his credit that all his albums indicate a classically trained background and a track like "Bring It On" features some extended guitar licks that rock the house but, unlike his best songs like "Fly Away," there is a disconnect along its way. Like many non-geniuses who attempt an alternative, urban sound (there are too many to start name-dropping), Kravitz overuses his acoustic tools to compensate for the innate vocal and dynamic ones he just doesn’t have.

In short, he’s no genius and thus a part of his appeal is being able to camouflage or dress up that fact. Kravitz succeeds in this by mostly doing covers like "‘American Woman" or maintaining a hip, rocker look that appeals to both women and men. I’m also sure it’s imminent for him to take a slot of a judge on American Idol or a Miss World beauty pageant. However, if you’re like me, then you’re more interested in the music but production value aside, there is little here to keep one interested.

Lyrics have always been his Achilles heel and coupled with a desire to go beyond a facile level, the album is downright bland in that regard. The ridiculous "I’ll Be Waiting" is a fitting title because it sure sounds like he’s waiting for something to happen on the track but, unlike you the listener who can discern what it lacks; Kravitz seems unsure what he is waiting for. One wonders how it made it through so many demo takes and still came out as a fully-armed thing daring to pass itself off as anything of interest. He fares better on "A New Door" but the middle section may put you to sleep.

Even with his reliable guitar-wielding base though, Kravitz settles in rather than attack. "I Love the Rain" is a mixture of Hendrix-esque (or in his case, Aerosmith) shards of feedback and the trip/hop vibe a-la Portishead but even as it fades out his lack of urgency costs him. Greater artistes like Prince, D’angelo, and Terence Trent D’arby would’ve, pardon the jargon, ripped the s-it up. Kravitz though isn’t concerned about exploring beyond what has become comfortable for him. He thinks that by merely still encasing everything in guitars that it’s experimental enough, thus disregarding the entire alternative soul movement that he got caught up in by default.

Like Mary J. Blige, he’s become too comfortable with what works for him and his patented sound to really want to shake things up or apply any really depth vocally anymore. There’s no fight or challenge left in him and, at forty-four, only a mid-life crisis could possibly rouse him into something new and it shows on this comfy yet too familiar record, which is odd given the harshness this decade has treated him (being racially-profiled by the police and all).

Albums like It is Time for a Love Revolution though will always be better received by soul yuppies desperate to be seen as hip on a visceral level than say a true alternative masterpiece like Trent D’arby’s Symphony or Damn or even the stunning solo debut out now by Lightspeed Champion. I could spend an entire article writing on reasons for this but, hey, you continue to watch the Grammy awards struggle to remain relevant despite ignoring most exceptional talent and nominating the same line up yearly, so you know what I’m talking about. Kravitz does the very same thing and while it doesn’t make his stuff awful by a long shot, this is his eight album of pushing the same shtick on us and that clearly doesn’t make this a work of progress, but one bogged down by too much familiarity and regress.

RATING: 5.5/10

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  • Chet

    You really think TTD can whip Lenny? That guys been MIA for almost 15 years except for some self-released Internet albums. 15 years later Lenny’s still going strong. OK, so Lenny is far from hip anymore (if Vampire Weekend or Lightspeed Champion are still around in 20 years, I will personally fellate them, same thing with that nigga D’Angelo, he imploded into some coked out Virginia anonymity after 2 albums), but Kravitz has an international audience that will buy his shit up and let him keep doing what he loves: playing shows and making records (and not blogging). When I saw Lenny rock a sweaty club in 1990, did I have hopes of him growing to be a great songwriter and strikingly original? Nah I took him for what he was. And he’s still one of the only cats that can still rock stages (playing actual rock n roll) and doesnt phone it in. So I guess the only thing left is why isn’t Lenny Prince? Nobody is Prince. That nigga does nothing but music 24/7 and has been for the last 35 years. Who can keep up except Stevie Wonder? Oh yeah, neither of them has written a great song since the 1980s either.

  • Roadgod

    You look at music as if it was a science project and you had to dissect it. The best songs are ones everyone can relate to and don’t have complicated lyrics. Otherwise, Einstein would have sold million of albums. You are really so far off base on everything it’s not even funny! This is like reading Dexter’s Laboratory blog. Did the Beatles have complicated lyrics? Did Buddy Holly have complicated lyrics? Also, Lenny has indeed stepped into new territory it’s just that you were too busy looking to tear him apart than listen to it. In fact, on this album he experimented a lot with sound and even did some old school tricks like sliding the guitar solo on Bring It On to the left instead of fading it out. He also places mics around the studio to pick up the sound that carried around. Next time spend more energy on what’s there and not what someone else would have done because no one else has.

  • 7allam

    Kravitz at his best could never make an album as good as “Ssymphony or Damn,” by Terence Trent D’arby. And TTD has not been mia for 15 years, he changed his name to Sananda Matreya, and has released “Vibrator,” “Wildcard,” “Angels and Vampires” and “Nigormortis.” He relocated to Italy. As far as Prince, he is the best ever. I too saw Kravitz in 1990 at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, OH. I really dug his first two albums, but the flower child act got old. It’s pathetic; like seeing Trent Reznor or The Cure.It’s time for Reznor to stop the “I’m so depressed” act, and Robert Smith looks so stupid wearing red lipstick and shaggy hair at his age.