Reviewed on this page:
Discovery - Inner
Child - 21... Ways To Grow - Shanice - Every Woman Dreams
R&B singer Shanice Wilson released her first album when she was 14, and
like most child prodigies she's struggled a bit entering adulthood.
At 18 she had a hit with "I Love Your Smile," but her next album didn't
sell, and took a break for a while. She's
got a powerful voice and has developed a lot of stylistic range,
attracting the attention of several big name producers, and has moved
into writing and production herself. Shanice works hard and isn't
too proud to stay behind the scenes - for several years in the mid-90s she sang
backup on a number of Babyface projects, before he
put together her much-hyped 1999 release.
She was identified as Shanice Wilson on this release, produced by Bryan
Loren. It's a straightforward Janet Jackson
ripoff, with sharp-edged, in-your-face drum programming, whomping
keyboards, and funk rhythm guitar, but nonetheless enjoyable. Nearly
every track sounds like it should have been all over the radio, both
uptempo tunes like "(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance" or "I'll Bet She's Got
A Boyfriend," and tuneful ballads like "Do I Know You," which
vaguely recalls New Edition. (Unfortunately, my LP doesn't list writer's
credits, so I don't know who deserves the credit.) And Wilson has a
remarkably mature voice, bringing attitude way beyond her years to "No
1/2 Steppin'" and belting, whispering, soaring and generally singing the
hell out of the ballad "Just A Game" - it makes you realize how good
Jackson could be if she could sing. Sure, some of the tunes are
insipid ("He's So Cute," "I Think I Love You") and it's all derivative -
it's still worth checking out. (DBW)
Inner Child (1991)
Narada Michael Walden produced
this time, and wrote a lot of the material, including the wonderful hit
single "I Love Your Smile," a bouncy pop song with an infectious hook.
(Branford Marsalis adds a sax solo.) But
the rest of the disc is seriously disappointing: Walden reins in
Shanice's voice so she sounds breathy and superficial,
creating a girlish persona that's just dull, except when it becomes
scarily bad (her rapping on "You Didn't Think I'd Come Back This Hard").
Meanwhile, Walden doesn't have any ideas other than what he'd already
used on "Smile," and track after track features generic love song lyrics
("Forever In Your Love") generically sung over routine synth and drum
machine programming. The other enjoyable tune is "I'm Cryin'"; the low
point (besides the raps) is a cover of Minnie
Riperton's "Lovin' You" - the mechanical backing underlines the
simplicity of the tune, and while Shanice can soar way up high, she
doesn't give the tune the emotion it needs.
21... Ways To Grow (1994)
An enjoyable listen, squarely in the middle of the 90s R&B road. Shanice has
really worked on her voice, and she now has a soaring high range that
recalls Mariah Carey, and enough to savvy to
rap like Salt without sounding completely
incongruous. She's also got a good batch of tunes to record; Walden is
gone, replaced by a bunch of younger producers: Babyface proteges Daryl Simmons and Bo Watson
contribute two worthwhile tracks (Babyface drops by to add backing
vocals on Watson's "Turn Down The Lights"); Jam & Lewis disciples Lance
Alexander and Tony Tolbert contribute a strikingly Boys II Men-like tune
("I Wish"); now-hot producer Jermaine Dupri's hip-hop "Ace Boon Coon" is
below his usual standard; Shanice herself does some writing and
co-producing, as does her mother Crystal Wilson.
Shanice still doesn't have a particularly original delivery or anything
to say besides the usual romantic clichés, but if you're in the
mood for catchy, enthusiastic, well-sung 90s soul, this will more than
fit the bill. (DBW)
Released on LaFace, and Babyface contributed three songs: the
lovely ballad "Fly Away" (written and produced with Laney Stewart), "Ain't Got No Remedy" and "Fall For You." He also
set her up with a bunch of producers either working in his style - Warren Campbell produces the catchy "Wanna Hear You Say" -
or in the more electronic, hip-hop influenced mode of TLC producer Dallas Austin - LDJ's "Somebody
Else," Austin's own "Don't Fight It."
Some songs are generic ("You Need A Man"), but none are unpleasant; most tracks are performed by the respective
producers, with no noteworthy guests. Shanice co-wrote much of the material, but didn't produce anything this time out, and you get the feeling she's never going to
do anything truly original. But she sure can sing ("Fly Away"), and as long as she keeps coming up with strong material like the
gentle closing ballad "A Reason," she'll be a worthy member of the mainstream. (DBW)
Every Woman Dreams (2006)
Shanice took a few years off to get married and have kids, and now she's anxious to share her domestic bliss with her fans ("Joy"; "Forever Like A Rose"). Which would be great if it resulted in worthwhile music, but it's unbelievably dull and clichéd stuff ("That's Why I Love You"). Shanice wrote many of the tracks with her husband Marc Knox (title track, a downright embarrassing ode to conspicuous consumption; "Things In The Movies," a simpleminded "hands off my man" number) and produced with an array of unknowns, of whom Jamey Jaz is the most prominent. She tries to follow modern R&B trends, and comes off as a straight-up Beyoncé imitator: "Take Care Of U" is a carbon copy of "Cater 2 U," for example, and the livelier tunes rely on bluster and crashing noise rather than anything approaching tunefulness ("So Sexy").
Most unnecessary of all is a remake of her 1991 cover of "Lovin' You."
There is one fine tune, the slow-burning funky "Chocolate," and one notable guest, Sheila E. on "Get Up."