CD Review: Musiq Soulchild’s “Onmyradio” sends all the right signals

onmyradio[Atlantic Records]

On his fifth album, Musiq Soulchild sticks to his thus-far successful blueprint, blending the classic and the contemporary with a collection of down-to-earth tracks about love — and not the kind to be found in this club.

He also adds an edgy flavor to a handful of less conventional songs that make the album sparkle.

Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of soul to go around — whether or not you want to add the “neo” designation to it — from the dusty, old school sound of “until” to the straight-out-of-the-’70s “deserveumore,” a track that borrows a page from Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Ooh Baby Baby” as Musiq fiends for his significant other. 

Like those songs, many of the album’s 12 odes subtly rework elements from other tracks without fully sampling them. On “special,” Musiq mimics the chorus from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Find a Way,” and on “backagain,” when a boo that Musiq thought was long gone returns, he reworks the theme from “Welcome Back, Kotter” over hand claps. It’s strangely appealing.

A strong guest spot comes from Mary J. Blige on the lead single “Ifuleave,” a please-don’t-go-girl plea and a reminder that Musiq’s ability to be emotionally vulnerable is one of his greatest assets.

“Iwannabe” featuring Damian Marley is a reggae-tinged reminder that there are some decent dudes left in this world, as Musiq promises to romance his lover and stay faithful.

“It sure would be nice if this could last for the rest of my life,” he sings. “I wanna be more than a night. I wanna be more than a moment that you spend in your life. I wanna be more than a day. I wanna be more than the words that I say to you.”

Where do we sign up?

And ladies should love “sobeautiful,” a standout that finds Musiq combining the best of new and old school as he serenades his woman.

Sensitive as Mr. Soulchild may be, however, he’s still prone to indulging in relationship no-nos. On the piano-driven breakup track, “dearjohn,” he details letting his girl go in a letter. Ouch. At least he makes the emotionally-charged trip to Splitsville sound good.

On “loveofmylife” Musiq knows that money can’t buy him love, but he admits that dollars may have something to do with happiness on the standout “moneyright.” The frenetic track is a new look for Musiq and one of the album’s best songs, as he promises to satisfy his love as soon as he can stack some paper:

Soon as I get my money right, I’ma take good care of you/Just like I’m supposed to. Baby you believe me, don’t you?

Yes, yes we do.

Overall, the album isn’t hampered down by any truly weak tracks, although his silky smooth slant can become stale, as on “someone.”

The best results often come when Musiq moves outside his musical comfort zone, as he does on the second single, “radio,” a crunk-infused head-nodder that could have been another empty take on a trend. Instead, it’s just Musiq — and the listener — having serious fun.

Hopefully Musiq will continue to take these kind of out-of-the-box stylistic ventures as he moves forward within the R&B/soul framework. Because when he does, it’s hard not to fall in love.

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