Promise to Love
The smooth-crooning, GRAMMY®-nominated Kem embraces and upholds an old-school R&B tradition of songcraft, sexy sway, and songs for lovers. So the ubiquitous comparisons to Marvin Gaye aren’t for naught. For this 2014 album (his fifth), Kem hired undersung Motown man Paul Riser (The Temptations, The Supremes, Quincy Jones) to arrange the tunes, so there’s an even heavier sense of classic soul than on his previous albums. “How Does It Feel” closely resembles old Detroit R&B, recalling The Stylistics and Stevie Wonder. The spare, guitar-and-vocal “Pray for Me” is as mournful a confessional as you’ll likely hear all year. The ever-optimistic (and unironic) piano ballad “Beautiful World” is, well, beautiful, while “The Soft Side of Love” is music to make babies by. Kem has also bumped up the tempo in places, adding some rocksteady to backdrop his candlelit croon. The single “It’s You” is equal parts late-night chill and dancefloor fodder. Ronald Isley duets with Kem on “My Favorite Thing,” while the silky “Downtown” features Snoop Dogg; the tune glows like a nighttime skyline through luxury apartment windows.