There was no place to go but up for Chrisette Michele Payne. After breathtaking cameos on albums by two of hip hop's greatest (Jay-Z's Kingdom Come and Nas' Hip Hop is Dead), Chrisette Michele released her hopeful debut, I Am, to much critical acclaim. 2008 saw only two cameos by Michele, on The Game's "Let Us Live" and The Roots' "Rising Up", as she was in the studio working on her followup album. Enter Epiphany, as Chrisette Michele touches on various aspects of relationships while at the same time showing the numerous emotional layers that women possess.
The album begins with slow knocks and the summer sounds of Chrisette's first single, "Epiphany". Chrisette Michele breezes through the pastoral-influenced production, crooning "I'm leaving" to a cheating lover that she feels has deprived her living her life. The magnificent ballad, "Notebook", should undoubtedly be the songstress' next single as she spills her heart about a crush as she can't find the strength to tell him how she feels so she simply "writes in her notebook, X's and O's, beside his name".
"Blame It on Me" showcases Ms. Michele and arguably her best vocal performance on the album as she takes the blame and responsibility for a failed relationship even though the two tried their hardest to make it work. Chrisette's sultry vocals personalize the push and pull tug-of-war that relationships can become on "All I Ever Think About", one of the album's standout cuts.
"Another One" finds Chrisette detailing the insecurity of a significant other and how he switches his demeanor when his friends are around (something that women can relate to) before handing him an ultimatum: get it together or she's on to "another one". The uptempo "Fragile" serves as another potential single and yet another standout record as Ms. Michele begs her man not to leave or tell her no because "her heart is fragile".
The comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald come full circle as Chrisette croons to her ideal man, her own "Mr. Right" while "Porcelain Doll" stressed female empowerment as Michele firmly states that while she appreciates all the love and attention, she is not "simple, nor naive" and that she is a real woman, never a porcelain doll. Chrisette's sophomore disc, Epiphany, comes to an excellent close with the piano-laced ballad "I'm Okay" as Ms. Michele says goodbye to a relationship, allowing only their memories to comfort her .
Epiphany features a little of everything from smooth ballads like "Notebook" and "On My Own" to uptempo numbers like "Playin' Our Song" and "Fragile" while at the same time being short, concise and sweet. Like her debut, the album finds Chrisette Michele solo throughout the album except for a sole duet with R&B crooner Ne-Yo, whose influence is evident throughout the entire album. Epiphany comes as a HIGHLY recommended purchase from me and it arrives just in time for the summer. After such an immaculate debut, it would seem almost impossible for Chrisette Michele to avoid the sophomore slump, but she finds a way by simply catering to an age old rule: just create great pieces of music.
5 (out of 5 mics)