Allure - Patiently Waiting, Time's Up
Like everyone else, the vocal group Allure was pulled along in the wake of Destiny’s Child in the early 2000s, abandoning the smooth jams of the '90s for a tighter, funkier, more hip-hop friendly sound. But where Beyoncé has moved on, Allure got stuck. Their new EP (Patiently Waiting) and album (Time’s Up) both sound like they’ve dropped through a wormhole from 2001.
Which is kind of great. Nothing against today’s radio, but there was really something special about that moment a decade or so ago when R&B songwriting and production suddenly caught on fire — a mixture of newbie fumbling and professional calculation as hip hop realized that this, this right here was the way it was going to take over the world. No doubt there’ll be an uncomfortable retro-early-oughts movement any time now, but this isn’t that. Instead, Allure clearly just never got the memo that itchy/cheesy Kevin Briggs beats aren’t where the market is at.
Patiently Waiting takes that obliviousness and runs with it. From the sweeping, harmonized tough-girl-threats-with-horn-sample of “What Goes Around;” to the materialist tinny looped steel-drum reworking of “Favorite Things;” to “Treat Him Rite” with overdriven eighties video game bleeps that somehow slide right into a sexy, laid-back groove — it’s twenty perfect minutes of gloriously out-of-date pop. Hell, even the obligatory skit is great, featuring some of the most piercing shrieks I’ve ever heard outside of a Diamanda Galas album.
Twice as long, Time’s Up has a bit more filler, but it’s still plenty good. “The Other Side” is awesome faux early Timbaland, with layers of beats and squeaky vocal hiccups bounding around each other while the singers volley “you’re a no good cheater” lines back and forth between the soloist and the harmony backup. “With Out U” is a great mid-tempo disco roll — Andy Gibb for the hip hop generation. “Walk in My Shoes” is something of a rote ballad with too, too gospel vocals — but even so, the low-key guitar playing and the harmonizing makes it listenable.
It’s those harmonies that are maybe the most refreshing thing about the album. Not to take anything away from the amazing sucrose delivery system that is Danity Kane, but there’s also really something to be said for a group whose vocal arrangements are tight enough to add hooks to the song, rather than just keeping up with the production.
Even Beyonce herself has given up on the vocal group aspects of her legacy these days, so it’s up to groups like Allure and the similarly-backward-looking Cherish to keep the faith. Not a good career move, exactly — harking back a decade is no way to get radio play. In fact, both Patiently Waiting and Time’s Up are CD-Rs, burned on demand, which suggests the singers themselves don’t expect to move a ton of copies. But whether or not anyone buys it, this is still some of my favorite music of the year — even if it is the wrong one.
Recommended Tracks: “Treat Him Rite,” “Favorite Things,” “The Other Side”