JC Chasez is, like Justin Timberlake, a former member of 'Nsync. Although I will admit to singing along drunkenly to 'Nsync on more than one occasion, I was never a huge fan. 'Nsync was definitely not what the cool kids listened to when I was in high school. Thus I was impressed when JT released a pretty cool, adult, urban hip-hop CD-- I still haven't tired of "Senorita" or "Cry Me a River," which is more than i can say for the latest Outkast singles. JC was never as popular with the girls as Justin was; he didn't date Britney, he isn't especially good-looking (at least in my estimation), and to be perfectly frank, the general public couldn't distinguish his voice from any of the other members of the 'Nsync-2nd string.
So what drew me to his solo debut, Schizophrenic? I bought it in part because of a 4-star review from Rolling Stone (admittedly not much of a distinction these days) and partly because it was co-produced by the fabulous duo of Basement Jaxx. The jacket is full of typically silly glam shots of JC, wearing ridiculous outfits and a somewhat sleazy long haircut. On the cover he is straitjacketed. so far, not too auspicious.
The first track immediately compensates. "Some Girls (Dance With Women)" is delightful and hypnotic from the opening beats; the chorus is irresistably singable; and the entire song, in fact, manages to be flawless, sophisticated, and easygoing throughout.
"She Got Me" has a little hint of Jamiroquai, and even channels Michael Jackson a little bit toward the end. "100 Ways" actually has some pretty decent lyrics, and he turns out to have a nice Prince falsetto impersonation as well. He really shows off his phrasing, a priceless skill which is all too rare in current Top 40 vocalists. Never does JC sacrifices a phrase or the melodic line to melisma or a breath; each part of his range is solid, from his powerful, sassy middle register to the pristine soul of his falsetto.
He channels Michael Jackson and George Michael again in the catchy "If You Were My Girl," up through the series of escalating shrieks toward the end of the song. "Shake It" is delightfully funky, featuring a nice growly vocal. "Everything you want" has a great reggae-flavored background, although marred by the cliched lyrics at the chorus.
There are few clunkers out of the eighteen. "All Day Long I Dream About Sex" is just stupid, with a synth line and chanted verse horribly remniscent of "Bad Touch." "One Nght Stand" has some fun scatting and a playful verse, but it's ruined by an irritating melody on the chorus an d some silly dialogue. "Blowin' Me Up" suffers from absurd lyrics and deserves better production. "Everything you want" has a great reggae-flavored background. However, the ballads, the true test of any kind of mainstream pop album, are uniformly stunning. Chasez wisely chooses the Boyz II Men route of low-key, lovelorn wistfulness rather than Jessica Simpson oversinging. They begin with "Build My World," melodically and lyrically sublime, beginning the true center of the album. "Dear Goodbye" has a lovely acoustic guitar line, and JC climbs effortlessly up the scale on the gorgeous chorus; the bridge is pure old-school Stevie Wonder. "Lose Myself" is almost orgasmically pretty in every aspect.
Best tracks include the frisky, acoustic-guitar-driven "Something Special"(with clap track and a whistle section at the bridge! How George Michael is this guy gonna get?). The song is screaming to become a single. "Come to Me" is slinky, propulsive New Wave, with some of the best (and explicit) lyrics on the CD: "cause when i'm all alone/i imagine i am face to face/inhaling every breath you take/i'm waiting out the storm... when I'm all alone/I lie awake and masturbate... Baby, here I come." The vocals are articularly good, almost sotto voce, backed by nicely restrained harmonies. "Right Here" has yet another catchy acoustic guitar riff (and a little homage to UB40's "Red Red Wine").
Even including the few missteps, "Schizophrenic" is one of the most amazing debut CDs I've ever heard. JC's singing and songwriting style is far more sophisticated than his former teeny-bopper peers, and the production on this CD is equally impressive: Rockwilder, Alex Griggs, and Robb Boldt in particular are responsible for the best tracks. The varied virtues-- whether they be the ballads, the dance tracks, the vocals-- should ensure JC a wide and solid following, and I'm eagerly awaiting his follow-up already.
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