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Chapter V: Underrated

Syleena Johnson

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Album Review

One of the most critically acclaimed R&B artists of the 2000s, Syleena Johnson's vocal prowess has attracted collaborations with numerous superstars, including R. Kelly, Busta Rhymes, Anthony Hamilton, Jermaine Dupri, and Common. She also received a Grammy nomination for being the featured vocalist on "All Falls Down." Johnson has laid out her musical journey in a fascinating, autobiographical way, naming each recording by chapter and building upon such themes as Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness and Chapter 2: The Voice. Calling her fifth solo recording Chapter 5: Underrated is less a lament than a puzzling truth: up till then, she hadn't crossed over to much deserved mainstream pop recognition. Though the album was mostly produced by Toxic (Faith Evans, Keyshia Cole) and his crew and includes a few guest artists (Tweet, Malone, Na'Tee), the focus is blissfully more on compelling, groove-oriented songwriting and Johnson's powerful, emotional vocals than star-studded invites. She asserts her ability to get back on her feet on the brief horn-fired title track intro, then engages in a sassy, En Vogue-like exchange about seeking an equal mate on the funked-up "A Boss." The girl power vibe intensifies on the hip and clever clap-along "Label Me." Johnson balances the danceable side with her always potent balladry. The mellow, dreamy "Angry Girl" (featuring Tweet) offers instruction to women who hurt the gender by projecting their generalized rage onto men. She later gets into more personal relationship issues on tracks such as "Like Thorns" and the torchy old-school ballads "Little Things" and "My Shoes." Johnson may be Underrated, but she's never sounded better.

Biography

Born: 02 September 1976 in Harvey, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Singer, songwriter, arranger, and producer Syleena Johnson is the daughter of unsung soul and blues great Syl Johnson ("Different Strokes," "Is It Because I'm Black"). Born in Harvey, Illinois, she grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Tina Turner, the Dells, and Mavis Staples. She performed in local bands and sang in her church choir at Greater Christian Unity, and later worked in classical...
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Chapter V: Underrated, Syleena Johnson
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