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Kevin Michael

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Album Review

With songs that could fit equally on pop radio as they could R&B (though there is little difference between the two by this point), young singer Kevin Michael Seward does his best Michael Jackson-meets-Prince-meets-Justin Timberlake (hardly a stretch) impression on his debut self-titled full-length. The results aren't wholly imaginative or unique, but Kevin Michael has a good enough voice, and a good enough production staff and group of writers behind him, to sound competent, even fun. As part of Downtown Records' — home of genre-benders Gnarls Barkley — Kevin Michael is clearly being marketed as the next big pop star, able to win the hearts of fans of all races and ages, and he may very well succeed. If this occurs, however, it will only be because of his ability to sound so much like his predecessors, and not because of anything new he's created. Which means, of course, based on the deserved success of both the Purple One and the King of Pop (and JT, to a lesser extent), there's some pretty fun stuff on Kevin Michael. The leadoff track and first single, "We All Want the Same Thing," which features a decent verse from crossover rapper Lupe Fiasco, is great, catchy and fun, mixing bluesy acoustic guitar with keys and soulful vocals. "All my gangsta friends, and all my skater friends/They all want the same thing," Seward sings, the cadence in his voice making it easy to believe that in fact he is familiar with both groups, that he's singing these lines from direct experience. "Stone Cold Killa," a pretty obvious nod to MJ, is smooth and upbeat, club-remix-ready without sounding forced, and "Ha Ha Ha," the sparse, sexual, R&B cut, comes across as somehow appropriate, unlike some of the other "love" songs, which were clearly created by older, more mature writers. But because Kevin Michael isn't quite able to carve out his own niche, despite his best attempts, the album also gets a bit repetitive and even corny at times, trying so hard to appeal to a diverse audience that it — and by dint of that the artist — loses a bit of its individuality. "Vicki Secrets," "Ghost," and "Love Letter" are all generic contemporary R&B tracks, indistinguishable from most of what else is out there, and the good bits can get lost between the production and falsettoed harmonies. Which is too bad, because Seward has talent, a talent that definitely appears on the album, and perhaps enough of it to put him where he and his label want. But until his vision of himself is a little stronger, he won't quite be able to separate himself from the crowd, and won't be able to break out quite as he'd like to.

Biography

Born: Chester, PA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s

Born to mixed-race parents in Chester, PA, a suburb to the south of Philadelphia, self-taught singer Kevin Michael grew up around music, and was even in contract negotiations when he was 11, though he didn't end up signing anything until many years later. Instead, he focused on making studio demos and songwriting, and only began label shopping more seriously when he was in his late teens. Eventually, he was noticed by Virgin, but Michael's eclectic style — a mix of Philly neo-soul, contemporary...
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