I’m not sure if it would be right to call Dwele an R&B journeyman. Unknown to the average pop fan (a small handful are aware that it’s him singing the hook on Kanye’s “Flashing Lights,”) the Detroit native has nevertheless amassed a solid catalog of albums in nearly a decade of recording. Greater Than One is the singer/songwriter’s sixth effort, and it’s one of the stronger albums in his oeuvre-truthfully, it’s one of the stronger R&B releases of a year that hasn’t exactly been kind to the genre.
The overarching theme of Greater Than One is relationships (greater than one…less than three…get it?) and the songs here speak truthfully to the pleasures (and annoyances) that arise when two people decide to get involved.
In that respect, Dwele finds himself working for the same audience as acts like Musiq Soulchild and Raheem DeVaughn, who actually appears on this album. Their duet, “What You Gotta Do,” is a highlight-both men seem to be vying for the title of who can do the best Marvin Gaye impression–I’ll tell ya, each of them comes close. The song certainly makes me more excited for a new Raheem album after his disappointing third album The Love And War Experience.
Dwele shouts out his “’80s babies” several times on the album, and Greater Than One has a less pronounced hip-hop vibe than his previous efforts, leaning harder on a traditional smooth soul sound more commonly associated with the middle of the decade of excess. It’s a difference of subtle shading, but it works fantastically. He’s able to jump from the danceable “This Love” to the jazzy “Swank” without missing a beat or suffering any lapses in continuity. There are echoes of artists ranging from Prince (or maybe Dwele’s Detroit homeboys Ready for the World?) to Luther on the album.
Not to say that Greater Than One should be termed a “throwback.” Apparently every modern-day R&B album should have at least one song devoted to alcohol/the club, and Greater Than One’s “Patrick Ronald” does a much better job at that than most. Wondering what the hell Patrick Ronald has to do with alcohol? Take the first three letters from each word in the title and go ahead and have your…”oh, I get it now” moment. There’s also “Must Be,” a song on which Dwele gives some love to his hometown, even shouting out a soda well known to Michiganders-Faygo. It ain’t just an ICP thing, y’all.
Greater Than One is light on bells and whistles, and there aren’t any major pop nods or guest appearances that will suddenly lift Dwele onto a new level of popularity. However, if you like good old meat and potatoes R&B-solid singing, strong lyrics, this is one of the “greater” releases of the past few months. Give it a spin.