On the heels of her Grammy win for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for “Be OK” earlier this year, Chrisette Michele returns with a hit single poised for even more Academy accolades. The title track from the New York native’s sophomore effort, Epiphany, sports a sleek, Massive Attack-style drum loop that frightens Wendy Williams, but which hasn’t stopped the infamous radio jock from playing the cut ad nauseam on her show every day. The entire album is executive produced by Ne-Yo, which gives Epiphany both a more modern R&B edge as well as a more unified sound than Michele’s 2007 debut—which could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. To wit: Between an opening salvo for independence and the album’s final stretch—comprised of edgy midtempo tracks like “On My Own,” which features a measured 4/4 beat and a melody that simply drifts, and the old-school soul throwback “Mr. Right”—is a gooey center filled with middling soundalike slow jams such as the Ne-Yo duet “What You Do” and the aptly titled “Another One.” The exceptions are “Notebook,” in which Michele at turns displays sultry lows that recall Toni Braxton and alpine highs that evoke Minnie Riperton, and “Blame It on Me,” a bona fide, good ol’ fashioned love song in which she delivers an emotive vocal turn that rivals Mary J. Blige’s finest.
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