Leon Bridges’ latest album is definitely a good thing.
Released Friday, “Good Thing” represents experimentation within the R&B genre, immersing listeners with its soulful tunes into undulating patterns of emotional restlessness. The album remains rooted in the ’50s and ’60s soul flair integral to Bridges’ signature style, while offering a revitalizing contemporary twist in its seamless incorporation of synthetic beats.
The 28-year-old soul singer’s music career hit the ground running in 2015 with the release of his debut album “Coming Home,” and he has kept his momentum going with his latest album. His voice takes listeners on a sentimental journey through romantic difficulties and triumphs, overcoming personal obstacles and embracing influential female forces in his life.
The album opens up with “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand,” which features tinkling bells and string instruments supplemented by Bridges’ striking falsetto. The singer’s masterful control of his vocal range invites listeners to tune into the clarity of his lyrical message, which focuses on a breakup scenario. The lightness and musical tact of the instrumentals counterbalance the singer’s regretful sorrow so as to avoid an overbearing gloominess.
The next track, “Bad Bad News” follows up with a jazzy percussion beat, punctuated by a playful keyboard solo. The lyrics are nonchalant yet self-assured – “I don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry about people in my face/ I hit ‘em with the style and grace, and watch their ankles break” – a message that stimulates the song’s lively rhythmic energy. The snappy lyrics and crisp beats mix to create the ideal song for a trek down Bruin Walk.
Although “Bad Bad News” and “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” have quickly gained acclaim as fan favorites, the song “Shy” best captures Bridges’ musical experimentation. The song’s use of quirky synthetic beats deviates quite a bit from the ’50s-inspired tunes of “Coming Home.” Bridges sweet-talks a love interest with a silky voice, quickly cutting to a brassy tone for the chorus, “I just want to see you, you could come over/ I know you’re shy, you can be shy with me.”
Bridges’ chants transition easily from one song to the next – for example, his sweet falsetto voice in “Shy” melts into seductive wavering tones of “Beyond.” Throughout the album, strings and drums encapsulate a torrent of emotions, ranging from excitement to melancholy to infatuation, which only amplifies the potency of his thoughtful lyrics.
The last track, “Georgia to Texas,” is reminiscent of his early hit “Lisa Sawyer” in its mention of his mother’s strength of character. The song also nods to his father’s facial features and brother’s hand-me-down clothes to present a heartwarming account of familial ties.
Although the song fits thematically with the other tracks on the album, with its allusion to the female presences in his life, the song lacks the punchy, rhythmic personality of the rest of the album. The song, and therefore the album, come to an uncharacteristically abrupt stop. Yet, the offbeat ending almost feels purposeful, as if to indicate an open-endedness that showcases Bridges’ potential for growth.
Throughout the album, it’s clear that Bridges has impressive vocal talent; however, he’s capable of delivering much more. The album is a testament to the payoffs of exercising tactful restraint, which in turn allows for his vocals and the music to collaborate in a balanced and innovative way. Although it incorporates unprecedented musical elements from Bridges, “Good Thing” is not so much a departure from his past music as it is a graceful transition into a promising new direction.