Ginuwine’s Back II Da Basics: Skip the Basics and Go Straight Back to the Drawing Board

There is one sad truth about Ginuwine’s career that he has yet to fully acknowledge and accept; without Timbaland, he ain’t sh!t. Plain and simple.

When he combined forces with Timbaland, he created some engaging, entertaining, near-brilliant material. It was Timbaland’s synth-laced and cutting-edge staccato rhythms that drove Ginuwine’s prosaic, womanizing lyrics past the point of average. And it was Timbaland that made The Bachelor and 100% two standout R&B records of the 90s. But once Ginuwine got a lil’ grown and restless, he made the classic mistake of distancing himself from his mentor in hopes of “expanding” his sound (read: “diluting it to the tastes of mainstream radio”). And what resulted were two decent but terribly lackluster follow-ups (The Life and The Senior) that did nothing but reiterate the truth; with Timbaland, Ginuwine’s amazing. Without Tim, he’s as bland and generic as they come.

And that fact is made painfully obvious several times throughout the course of Ginuwine’s 5th album, Back II Da Basics. Originally planned to be an album that saw Ginuwine and Tim reuniting, Gin cited “scheduling conflicts” as the reason why he enlisted a handful of B and C-list R&B songwriters and producers to help compose this project. But Tim’s presence is sorely missed.

It speaks volumes about an album when Jazze Pha contributes two of the more memorable cuts. Secret takes Jazze’s predictable formula for a club song but actually executes it in a decent manner. The stutter-step acoustic guitars and handclaps are toned down and drained of all “crunkness”, leaving behind a smooth R&B melody suitable for cutting a 2-step without completely drowning in gimmicky generics. Want U To Be is the flipside of the coin; a smooth, stepping groove that’s an obvious facsimile of any R. Kellz tune but works wonders with Ginuwine’s smooth tenor and charming persona.

The other songs on the album worthy of attention are the ones that sound like thought was put into them; She’s Like suffers from corny and clichÃ?©d analogies of a woman’s worth but has a great melody and arrangement courtesy of TrackMasters. Betta Half is a simply gorgeous ode to his wife, one-time rapper SolÃ?©. Glaze In My Eye is weak on instrumentation but strong on melody and presence while trying to dispel the whole myth of men being too macho to cry. And I’m In Love is a classic Ginuwine ballad that harkens back to the early years of his career, when he had a clear vision and sound defined; this tune heads and shoulders above many of the R&B ballads populating playlists today.

And aside from those two moments, the rest of the album is split up between bland and forgettable tunes (Take A Chance, Far Away) and pitiful, faceless R&B drivel (Oh Girl, The Club, Back II Da Basics).

With his entire career, Ginuwine’s seemed to be on the cusp of superstardom. He always seems to stand on the outskirts of major success. But with Usher’s recent emergence as the new King of R&B (critics’ words, not mine), footstep-followers such as Mario and Chris Brown soaking up the residual spotlight, and small-scale successes such as Marques Houston and Trey Songz filling in the gaps, there’s not much room left for Ginuwine’s faceless R&B generics to breathe. And Back II Da Basics does nothing to prove Ginuwine’s worth as an R&B necessity.

He went back to the basics but forgot absolutely everything he learned. So he best cut his losses and go straight back to the drawing board before he’s completely laughed out the back door of R&B once and for all.

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