Full Force one sang that love is for suckers, and while I’ll leave the explanation behind that statement to Bowlegged Lou and Paul Anthony, I will say that definitive proof exists of one thing: falling in love can definitely fuck with your music. Case in point: one Sealhenry Samuel.
Once best known for the Grammy-winning hit “Kiss From a Rose” (or his collection of facial markings), Seal is now best known for being Mr. Heidi Klum. And while we should all bow to the man for being able to snag such a fine woman, it’s fair to say that falling in love has made this brother soft. Since Seal and Heidi made their union official (and started having children at breakneck speed), he’s released the dance-flavored “System” (most notable because it marked Klum’s singing debut…), a God-awful set of R&B covers (which somehow went Gold), and now he’s released his sixth studio set of new material, entitled “Commitment”.
Lyrically, “Commitment” is exactly what you’d expect from an album with a title like that. Seal extols the virtues of being in a good, loving relationship, and even the songs with titles (and lyrics) that hint at trouble (“Weight of My Mistakes”) wind up wrapped up in a big loving bow by song’s end. Seal’s never been an especially angsty artist, but there’s always been a melancholy edge to his music that’s now completely gone.
Something else that’s gone? Great production. Seal’s first handful of albums were produced by Trevor Horn. The former Yes member and Seal turned out to be one of those great sympathetic producer/artist combos. Horn’s productions had a sense of drama and atmosphere that was perfect for Seal’s grainy vocals. Trev was jettisoned some time ago, and the producer’s chair for “Commitment” is taken by…David Foster? Yes, the adult contemporary maven, who’s produced soft-rock gems (or turds, depending on your personal taste) ranging from “You’re the Inspiration” to “I Will Always Love You”, the guy whose most noteworthy recent feat has been discovering Josh Groban, has taken the reins for Seal. While “Commitment” doesn’t totally slide into namby-pamby Lite FM territory, at best Foster sounds like he’s trying to ape Horn’s production style. In that case, why not just frickin’ get Trevor Horn?
There’s also not a lot of variation from song to song. Seal’s a fantastic vocalist, even when the material is mediocre. That said, “Commitment” at times can sound like a 45-minute loop of atmospheric synthesizer sounds-it’s almost new agey. After listening to the album several times, the only tracks I was able to say I could definitively pick apart (and liked) were the aforementioned “Weight of My Mistakes” (one of “Commitment”‘s bouncier tracks, actually) and the lullaby-like “I Know What You Did”. Not to say everything else is garbage, but there’s nothing that begs to be listened to again, either.
“Commitment” would be a lot easier to review if it was simply a bad album. It’s not a trainwreck at all, but it is ridiculously boring. He may have put a ring on it (and kudos to him for doing so), but it appears that married life has taken away the man’s edge, and that’s definitely not good for his music.