Mario - Go

Posted December 14, 2007
Tags: Mario,

In the music industry there are boys, and then there are men. I know separating the two can...

Go Album Review

In the music industry there are boys, and then there are men. I know separating the two can get a little confusing, we won't even get into Boyz II Men, but there are definitely some signs to watch out for when you're trying to tell the difference (pay attention ladies). Unfortunately the date on his driver’s license doesn’t mean much: there are 48-year-boys running around like drunken teenagers – Flava Flav! – and then there are 21-year-old men who handle their business like veterans. On that note, allow me to bring Mario to the stage.

Just three years ago the baby-faced singer was swimming in a sea of R&B adolescents posturing like adults, thankfully Mario has emerged from the kiddie pool with the musical cojones to sit at the big boys table. His latest album Go has been a long time coming, delayed would be an understatement, but apparently Mario’s been using his time well. Go is an honest, confident and purposeful collection that sounds like the work of someone who’s put aside childhood concerns and fully embraced what it means to be a man. Now Mario doesn’t have the cut abs and slick dance moves of the Omarion’s of the world, putting him at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to the younger R&B market, but that’s just forced him to focus on developing his musical chops. Imagine that, a musician whose priority is making quality music. What will they think of next?

A man handles his own business, and in an industry where artists often have as much say over their choices as children, Mario is firmly in control of his career. The word is Mario was being pressed to put some more radio-friendly hits on Go, and he’s delivered a couple, but on his own terms. The title track Go is everything you expect from a Neptunes production, they somehow weave an 80’s breakdance beat with a violin orchestra, but the real story is Mario’s vocals. He immediately dispels any notion of a teen-pop album with a few well-placed f-bombs, and his voice rides the production like a young Michael Jackson (pre-craziness). The pulsing Kryptonite is further proof of Mario’s development as a singer, he’s added the ability to put some real emotion behind his vocal flourishes. He shows his versatility as the sounds moves from a slow piano hook to a pulsing electronic beat, and a Rich Boy verse gives the track some grit. Remember how I spent the Exclusive review comparing Chris Brown to Usher? Well Go and Kryptonite could have easily been on Confessions.

A man’s got more substance than swagger, he doesn’t have to rely on a diamond watch to get the ladies. My instinct is to say Lay In My Bed sounds like a remix of J Holiday’s Bed, right down to the slowly pounding drums, but considering the delays Mario could have written his version years before. Either way, Lay In My Bed doesn’t have the same hypnotizing effect as Bed, but Mario hits notes that Holiday couldn’t dream of touching. Similarly, it feels like How Do I Breathe dropped so long ago it must have been off his last album, but the fact that the Stargate-produced ballad still works is proof of its longevity. How Do I Breathe doesn’t break new ground for Mario, it’s probably the most immature song on the album, but I’m secure enough in my manhood to admit I’ve sung along in the car. Oh, like you haven’t. Don’t judge me.

No man is perfect, the important thing is learning from your mistakes. Right And A Wrong Way is a classic-sounding slow jam that features an almost unbelievably powerful vocal performance from Mario. That’s why it’s such a shame the lyrics are so shaky; the track opens with the declaration “You may be young but you’re ready.” I’m sorry, what? Call me crazy, but the last thing I want to think about when I’m listening to a slow jam is possible statutory rape charges. Then again, I’m sure R. Kelly loved it. Right And A Wrong Way isn’t the album’s only slip-up; No Definition, Let Me Watch and Music For Love all fall short of perfect, but if they sound lacking it’s only because Mario’s has raised the bar so high on the rest of the album. R&B has no shortage of boys; right now it desperately needs more men, and Go is Mario’s musical ticket into the world of the grown and sexy. Welcome to the club, my man.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted December 14, 2007
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