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“Challengers” releases in theaters on April 26.
Review: “Challengers”
Published April 13, 2024

Grow up to be a child

In order to earn the title of Soulchild, Musiq had to perfect and mature his R&B

When R&B artist Musiq Soulchild dropped the “Soulchild” from his name with the release of his sophomore album, “JUSLISEN,” he said it was because he had not yet mastered the craft of music making and did not deserve the title of “music’s soul child.”

Musiq Soulchild
LABEL: Atlantic Records

Apparently, Musiq has learned a lot since the release of “JUSLISEN” in 2002. For his latest album, his fourth, Musiq brought the “Soulchild” back. Not only has the smooth crooner decided he is now worthy of the title, he proves it track after track on “LUVANMUSIQ.”

As “LUVANMUSIQ” insinuates, the soulful singer found lots of inspiration in a little thing called love. All 12 of the album’s tracks portray Musiq romancing a lady, which is well suited to his voice and style. And thankfully, Musiq’s Don Juan wooing doesn’t get old because he has learned how to keep the sound new and keep the subject interesting.

First, Musiq Soulchild switches up the sound and tempo on each track, from slow and somber to light-hearted happiness. Like any good lover, Musiq knows how to heat things up, cool them off and then repeat the cycle again. The beginning tracks are mellow, like “MS.PHILIDELPHIA,” where Musiq paints a picture of his muse over bongos, claps and piano. The middle of the album kicks the tempo up. “MAKEYOUHAPPY” has a head-nodding, hip hop beat that incorporates funk sounds. “LUVANMUSIQ” closes out with the soft-sounding, acoustic “GREATESTLOVE.”

Secondly, Musiq has some songwriting skills. While he may come off as cheesy as a Hallmark card at some points, the overall sincerity of the package makes that a forgivable flaw.

On the first single of the album, the poppy and bright-sounding “B.U.D.D.Y,” Musiq seduces his lady by saying, “I don’t mean to come off like a telemarketer / I ain’t no hood, no crook, no robber / I just wanna pardon your heart / If I could bother.” A telemarketer? There is nothing less sexy than a telemarketer, so while Musiq gets points for originality, he comes off like an adolescent boy with such silly self-deprecating come-ons.

However, Musiq is rarely that silly in his songwriting. He knows how to tell a complete story through each song, which is rare in any musical genre.

In the gospel-inspired, wedding-worthy “BETTERMAN,” Musiq belts out, “I thought I knew what love was / But it wasn’t until she came and changed my life / Now I realize that all the love in this world / I want to give to this girl / Because she makes me want to be a better man.” Musiq knows how to say the things every lady wants to hear, but he can still hold it down for the fellows.

On “TEACHME,” a ballad imploring his lady to teach him how to love, he also sings what every man who is working hard to be the traditional “good man” wishes he had the voice, eloquence and guts to admit. He starts, “I was told the true definition of a man was to never cry / Work till you tired got to provide / Always be the rock for my fam, protect them by all means / And give you all the things you need, baby / Our relationship is suffering trying to give you what I never had.”

Musiq reveals his professionalism in the balance he can strike between suave lady-killer and one of the boys, between contemporary hip-hop and 1970s funk and between dance songs and ballads.

“LUVANMUSIQ” proves that it was time for Musiq to bring the “Soulchild” back to his name. He stayed true to the sound of his previous albums, while maturing in production and writing. One listen to the heartfelt album will reaffirm Musiq’s choice to re-dub himself “music’s soul child.”

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