Spin Cycle

When Chante Moore’s debut album, Precious, appeared in 1992, there were three ways a female R&B singer could go, stylistically speaking: either you were a dance diva (Janet,) a leather-lunged belter (Whitney/Mariah) or an urbane song stylist with jazzy sensibilities (Anita/Sade.) In those days, just as Mary J. Blige was engineering a paradigm shift,  Chante fit firmly into the third category. Younger than Anita and Sade and blessed with stunning looks, the sultry “Love’s Taken Over” announced her arrival. Over the next decade, Chante adapted to the change in musical tastes, occasionally scoring hits like the Osmonds-interpolating “Chante’s Got A Man” and the Jermaine Dupri-produced “Straight Up” without becoming a major star.

The seductive cover of Chante Moore's new album, "Moore Is More."

The seductive cover of Chante Moore’s new album, “Moore Is More.”

Since popping up as the female foil on the Isley Brothers’ 2001 hit “Contagious,” Chante’s laid relatively low, releasing only three albums in the decade, two of which were duet albums with then-husband Kenny Lattimore. Recently, however, she’s put herself back in the public eye. She’s one of the cast members of the popular unscripted series “R&B Divas” and she’s just released Moore Is More. Once you get past the silly album title, you’ll realize that Chante’s delivered a solid if not spectacular slice of R&B. It doesn’t try too hard to be hip, but it’s surprisingly as solid as any other album in her catalog.

There’s never been a doubt that Chante can sing. The woman definitely has range-she can go from a seductive purr to a full-bodied belt with no problem. This particular album seems to rely on her occasional dog-whistle notes a little too much, but that’s a fairly minor quibble. Unlike a lot of veteran R&B singers, she’s also got a solid lyricist on board-herself. “Talking In My Sleep” is a favorite, turning the tables on the old “man mumbling a woman’s name in his sleep” situation. Although she’s best known as a balladeer, Chante scores with a couple of the uptempo songs. “Doctor Doctor” and “Alone” both have a bit of a Rich Harrison-“Crazy In Love”/”1 Thing” vibe. Producer Kwame (yes, the rapper that used to be quite fond of polka dots back in the day) has a knack for merging older and newer sounds, and these are two of his better recent tracks.

Of course, Chante wouldn’t completely abandon her bread and butter. “Don’t Make Me Laugh” is a big ballad, but thankfully Chante doesn’t oversell it. Even when she power-sings, she does it for emphasis and not as a showoff move. While most of the album is fairly contemporary “grown folks” R&B, Moore Is More offers up two other potential avenues for Chante with the last two tracks. “Jesus, I Want You” is a gospel track that finds Moore squarely in Yolanda Adams/Mary Mary mode, while she closes Moore Is More with an excellent reading of the standard “Cry Me A River.” A standards album should be (and I’d hope, is) in Chante’s future.

A lot of folks out there in mainstream America think that many of the R&B artists who got their start in the ’90s are has-beens or at least irrelevant. While Moore Is More isn’t a home run, it’s a solid album that proves the grown folks still have the edge when it comes to making good R&B.

Grade: B

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