Michelle Williams began her mainstream career as the single body replacement of two members of Destiny's Child, becoming the third face of the girl group that would embody chart-topping R&B for this century. Williams' grainy voice provided a counterpoint to the honey vocals of Beyonce and Kelly Rowland, and as such typically shone only on the bridges. Then Destiny's Child went on hiatus, and all three ladies went on to release solo albums. Beyonce stormed the charts with her unstoppable Dangerously In Love, while Rowland achieved decent success with Simply Deep. Williams took a different path, following her heart and putting out the Gospel/Christian album Heart to Yours.
Going pop and breaking the dawn
Flash forward to 2008, and with the release of Unexpected, Williams has welcomed R&B back into her arms with a modern edge, a la Rihanna and Chris Brown, infusing her soulful lyrics with party beats and dance-like synths. Take the lead single, for instance. "We Break the Dawn" is an immensely catchy mid-tempo jam co-written by Williams and ex-Child Beyonce's sister, Solange Knowles. The track re-launched the ebullient singer back into the mainstream, sporting a new, edgy electronica look and sound. "We Break the Dawn" has a certain amount of memorability in the synth riff and the laid-back party lyrics. The song is carefree, and a far cry from the depth of Gospel music.
The album features a collection of "moods" including the bouncy tracks "Hello Heartbreak," hilariously including "It's time for the percolator" as the bridge, and "Lucky Girl" once the smooth intro stops. These dance-pop R&B beats are the same light and noncommittal ones you've become accustomed to with artists like, as I said earlier, Rihanna and Chris Brown, along with the party feel of The Pussycat Dolls and other contemporaries. Another mood of Unexpected is the party jam feel exhibited by "Private Party" and "Hungover," the tracks you jam while driving down the road with your windows down. "The Greatest," a fantastic pop ballad, and "Thank U," a melodic song about thanking what held you down so you can appreciate how far you've come, round out the heavier, and slower, moods on the album.
This album fits nicely into a lot of musical niches, making it a good addition to most collections. And you may be humming some of these tracks years down the line. Not my favorite of the year, but not too shabby either.
Released October 7, 2008 on Sony Records.