After the incredible success of her last two albums ("Rapture" and "Giving You The Best That I Got"), Anita Baker changes her musical direction from pop-laced R&B to jazz on her latest LP "Compositions." Of course, Baker doesn't completely turn her back on her R&B roots, but most of her new material is definitely jazz-oriented. The change is mostly instrumental, but Baker's voice captures the style beautifully, even though her pronunciation is poor in some of the songs, which makes it difficult for the listener to discern the lyrics.
As of yet, the two singles from the album, "Talk to Me" and "Soul Inspiration," haven't received much radio attention, and the album has failed to reach the same heights on the pop charts as its predecessors. However, this doesn't mean that the material lacks depth or strength. Baker's best tracks are, in fact, the jazzier ones. "Talk to Me" is, perhaps, the most pop-oriented number here, but far more inviting are "Lonely," "Love You to the Letter" and "Soul Inspiration." "Perfect Love Affair" and "No One to Blame" represent the most R&B-like songs, while "Lonely" and "Fairy Tales" are superb jazz performances, both vocally and instrumentally.
Though musical transitions like this can sometimes scare away record buyers, established stars like Anita Baker usually end up benefitting from the creative change of pace by broadening their popular image. It's too early to tell whether Baker can count this effort as a chart-topping success, but it should be considered a personal success. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.