Appropriately titled Intimacy, R&B singer Kem's third album has a looser feel, as if eavesdropping on a jam session at a small club. This welcome approach allows Kem to further explore his jazz side and emphasize his deeply emotional lyrics.
Kem first burst onto the music scene in 2002, with the first single "Love Calls" receiving much radio airplay. Initially critics focused on his uncanny resemblance to Al Jarreau, particularly due to Kem's scatting vocals. But the subsequent album, Kemistry, showcased his talents as a gifted keyboardist and singer/songwriter. His lyrics, frequently addressing love in its various forms (mostly romantic and spiritual), gained him a following in the R&B and contemporary jazz fields. His followup, 2005's aptly titled Album II, functioned as a sequel to the first CD, with Kem continuing to develop his musical skills. Stevie Wonder's guest turn on the track "You Might Win" solidified Kem's reputation as an artful crooner who could span genres.
Intimacy marks his long-awaited return, and the album does not disappoint. "When I'm Lovin' You" is classic Kem, with its shuffling beat recalling old school stepping singles. His jazz-tinged vocals are in fine form on "Can You Feel It" (no relation to the Jacksons' song), with his voice effortlessly gliding over the lovely chord changes. The first single, the ballad "Why Would You Stay," strays more into pop territory, although his keyboards and singing style retain that distinctive Kem sound.
Perhaps no other track exemplifies Kem's typical themes than "Love Never Fails," which tenderly addresses a breakup. "I want for you something better," he sings. "But remember one thing/Hey girl/My love for you will never fail." Featuring a bare bones arrangement with just Kem accompanying himself on keyboards, the song upholds the power of love, even when it fades and changes into something new. Indeed, the tune's theme and sparse arrangement encapsulate the album's title.