Playing the role of songwriter, producer and background vocalist for years, Ryan Leslie was a secret weapon for contemporary acts like Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Cassie (with whom he was romantically linked). But with a buzz-worthy debut album now in stores, Leslie joins a growing list of behind-the-scenes mavericks, including Ne-Yo and The Dream, who are seeking and achieving breakout stardom as recording artistes in their own rights.
While his self-titled disc does not match the sheer brilliance of contemporary singer-songwriters like John Legend or John Mayer, Leslie nevertheless delivers a solid R&B set laden with catchy hooks and appealing lyrics, as he croons primarily about finding a girl, losing her, and wanting her back. No matter where you are in matters of the heart, there’s an emotion here that will speak to you.
His talent and sharp wit pack a wallop on such tracks as “Out Of The Blue”, the funky “How It Was Supposed to Be,” and the smooth “Valentine”. The outside-the-box single “Gibberish” also gets good marks, as does his more popular tracks “Diamond Girl” and “Addiction” (which features guest spots from Fabolous and Cassie).
Ryan Leslie has a very recognizable style; he delivers his ideas through an R&B club-synth meets live instrumentation meets a mid-tempo aesthetic, and he achieves success through this focused context. Overall, it is a satisfying, ear catching experience. While he will not blow you away with his vocals nearly as much as he will with his production, Leslie fully demonstrates that he can sing and compile an album satisfactorily without coming across as phony or pretentious.
Exploring love and relationships and the heartache usually involved, Leslie, 30, does a fine job baring his soul on 12 tracks that blur the line between contemporary R&B and pop, while proving he can stand on his own as a singer as much as a writer and producer.
DOWNLOAD: “Out Of The Blue”, “How It Was Supposed To Be”, “Valentine,” and “Gibberish”Powered by Sidelines