Nikka Costa’s can’tneverdidnothin’ but with boy parts and better grammar, Van Hunt’s sophomore outing, On the Jungle Floor, is neither as edgy nor as funky as his press kit and his surprisingly A-list legion of fans—it seems everyone from Alicia Keys and The Roots to Coldplay and U2 have voiced their praise for Hunt—would have you believe. Like Costa, also managed by Randy Jackson and who turns up on the lukewarm slow-burner “Mean Sleep,” Hunt is a promising enough talent with diverse and perfectly respectable influences—by some margin, the best cut on the album is the cover of The Stooges’ “No Sense Of Crime”—but without the clarity of vision to combine those influences into a unique, forward-thinking sound. Hunt possesses the raw materials to produce something progressive: there’s a killer, world-weary bite to his vocals even when he’s crooning run-of-the-mill neo-soul lothario come-ons like “At The End Of A Slow Dance” and “Hole In My Heart,” and the best-written moments of “Suspicion (She Knows Me Too Well)” and lead single “Character” are genuinely inspired, surprising turns-of-phrase that more than hold their own against the work of modern R&B’s most acclaimed songwriters. The most significant problem with On the Jungle Floor, then, is that producer Bill Bottrell conceals that rawness, precisely what could make Van Hunt distinctive and exciting, beneath an overly processed, MOR sound, reducing a man who aspires to at-peak Prince’s genre-bending panache to an album that spends far too much of its running time on middling coffeehouse pomo confessionals and derivative Lenny Kravitz-style uptempo numbers. Or, more succinctly, On the Jungle Floor is an album that sounds afraid to get dirty, and Van Hunt is too talented to play it this safe.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: