Instrumentalists who also happen to be R&B singers seem to experience difficulty balancing the two sides of their musical identity. That’s really shouldn’t be the case, because if the entertainer has any hopes of becoming a star, that artist knows what part of that dual persona to embrace. The singing side is what will bring the money and fame. Look, they’ve promoted Alicia Keys’ skill on the 88s ever since she emerged about a decade ago. However, Keys rarely gets a chance to use those piano playing skills because people want to hear her sing, and you have to give the people what they want.
There are some vocalists/musicians who are able to square the circle. George Benson and Norah Jones come to mind. However, both of those artists got their start in the jazz world – the one genre where instrumentalists have more prestige than vocalists. So the one thing that stands out after listening to Lifesize Mirror, Monet’s latest recording, is the ease in which she manages to express the vocal and instrumental sides of her persona.
Lifesize Mirror is an R&B record that has a strong element of instrumental improvisation. Monet sings on nearly every track while also weaving her creative flute solos into most of the tunes. For example, the dance track “Walk With Me” opens with a flute introduction and has an extensive solo in the middle. And while the title track is one of the songs where listeners won’t hear Monet’s flute playing, that track has other virtues: First, there is the uplifting message that encourages listeners to evaluate themselves honestly and learn to like themselves. Then, there is that funky, bass and percussion driven beat that instantly gets head nodding. Monet also proves to be an adept balladeer. “Hold Me Sweetly” is mid-tempo ballad that has a jazz-influenced swing and lyrics that are both seductive and tender.
Those new to Monet might wonder if she’s a musician or a singer. Many have been trained to assume that an artist will have to be one or another. It won’t take long for them to realize that Monet won’t be limited. She expresses all sides of her musical identity, and she speaks with fluency. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes