Über Lyfe Jennings
Sure, Lyfe Jennings' tenor isn't perfect -- it's rough and somewhat nasal -- but it manages to convey a certain emotional resonance that isn't there in more technically proficient singers; it's effective, but it's also appropriate considering the singer's back story. After being convicted of an arson charge, Jennings spent much of his early adulthood in prison -- in fact, his debut album is named after his inmate number. Jennings spent his time behind bars wisely, learning to play the piano and even starting up a music program for other inmates. After being released, the singer immediately began pursuing his music career: he recorded a demo on his second day after release and a month later he was performing before a national audience on the television program Showtime in Harlem (at the Apollo). Though it would be somewhat inaccurate to call Lyfe 268-192 neo-soul -- it's very much pop music -- it does convey a reverence for classic soul and gospel music. Hints of Al Green can be heard in love ballads such as "I Can't," while the ghost of Sam Cooke haunts "Cry." The melancholy of "26 Years and 17 Days" feels both earned and riveting. His breakout hit, "Must Be Nice," a bittersweet tale of a vicarious romantic, is sweet enough to make married women swoon, yet sad enough to make lonely men cry. It's also, like much of Jennings' work, extremely addictive.