Sisqo's sound soars, struts, flexes muscles

Review: On his solo album, `Unleash the Dragon,' the singer marries R&B smooth with the rhythms of rap to produce, in his own words, the `unexpected.'

November 30, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

"What I'm about to do, I'm sure nobody expected," announces Sisqo on the title track of his solo album, "Unleash the Dragon" (Def Soul 314 546 816, arriving in stores today). "But that's what I do."

It sounds like typical hip-hop braggadocio, but the platinum-haired Dru Hill member is definitely out to smash some preconceptions with this album. And even though the music on "Unleash the Dragon" isn't a total departure, it does reveal unexpected aspects to the singer's sound.

For listeners familiar with his Dru Hill work, Sisqo's greatest strength is his balladry. His lithe, muscular tenor sailed so easily over the interwoven harmonies of Dru Hill hits like "Beauty" that it's hard to imagine him doing anything else.

Certainly, "Unleash the Dragon" has its share of slow, soaring moments, from the sinuous romance of "Is Love Enough" to the classic pop cadences of the Elton John-penned "Enchantment Passing Through" (on which Sisqo is joined by the rest of Dru Hill). But it isn't until Sisqo gets into the groove that the album truly begins to strut its stuff.

"Got to Get It" establishes the pattern early. Driven by a propulsive drum machine, it contrasts a jittery, rat-a-tat verse against a slow-and-sweet chorus. Between the two, the song manages to convey both the rhythmic momentum of rap and the melodic allure of R&B -- a real best-of-both-worlds combination.

Sisqo polishes that approach to perfection on a naughty little number called "Thong Song." A tribute to the beauty of minimalist attire, it contrasts a dourly proper string quartet against relentlessly percolating percussion to convey the push-and-pull of desire, as Sisqo's staccato delivery describes the devilish smile of a woman who knows the effect her dance moves are having.

"Thong Song" is sly, slightly salacious and utterly infectious. If it's any indication of what is to come, R&B fans can expect 2000 to be a happy Dru year, indeed.


"Unleash the Dragon"

DefSoul 314 546 816


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