Considering how merciless and unforgiving the music industry – and fans – can be and factoring in her being 6 years removed from her untimely and unexpected boot out of the global phenomenon that is Destiny’s Child – not to mention her failed attempt at forming a second girl group, Anjel – it’s safe to say that purple pigs probably would have flown before LeToya Luckett had a fair shot at a successful solo career.
Yet that is exactly what she has managed for herself and thru no half-baked means. Aside from her hefty lawsuit settlement against her former management – which sees her receiving royalties from all things DC to this day – and her successful fashion boutique in Houston, TX, LeToya did receive a second chance in the spotlight; and this time, a shot at solo stardom. She inked a major label deal with Capitol Records, got a slew of A-list producers to support her sultry soprano, compiled it into a solid 55:00 and issued forth the #1 album in the country: LeToya.
But even though she got a second chance at stardom, LeToya still had to work twice as hard to prove herself. That stigma of being “the girl kicked out of Destiny’s Child” still lingered in many fans – and skeptics – minds and the ultimate question of whether LeToya could carry an entire album herself or be better off left in the background remained. So did she pull it off or make a fool of herself? The answer depends on whether or not you’re biased against good, solid, and consistent R&B music.
As far as album sequencing goes, it must be noted that LeToya is a prime example of how all debuts should be arranged. From top to bottom, the album glides between smooth R&B rhythms and crunked-out club beats without losing momentum or the listener’s interest and keeping Toya’s vocals afloat the whole way thru.
The first half of the album establishes and maintains the momentum nicely. U Got What I Need has a breezy, summertime flow thanks to Just Blaze’s sampled vinyl being spun on top of twinkled synths and drum machines and Toya’s spunky vocal dripping with infatuation. A nice segue into So Special, which is basically “U Got What I Need” with a subtly harder edge due to Teddy Bishop’s pulsating drumline, frenetic piano licks and Toya’s sassier vocal about how awesome her man is. Inserting a song about heartbreak into the mix so soon may seem like a surefire killjoy to the album’s momentum but thankfully, Torn is subtle and vulnerable without the melodramatic edge. The chopped-up Stylistics’ sample is completely overdone and Toya’s vocal flirts with aggravation and heartbreak nicely; our first true sample of the prowess packaged inside her sultry soprano.
From there, the album takes on a bit more serious tone with What Love Can Do which has Toya expressing a clear-eyed perspective over some of love’s more harsher realities. But Toya quickly lightens the mood with the flirtatious She Don’t which is every female R&B singer’s requisite “I am the sh*t and your new girl will never ever be in a million years what I was to you and I’m gonna make sure you never forget it” record; this one being supported by a killer bassline (courtesy of a classic Spinners sample) and insane drum loop at the end.
Then the album transforms into a 4-record suite dedicated to Toya’s various club excursions. While most may cringe at the thought of another R&B singer doing crunked-out club tunes, Toya actually manages to inject some entertainment value into them by doing records that come off as natural instead of intentional, half-baked cuts constructed solely for guaranteed airplay.
Tear Da Club Up is Jazze Pha gone crunk with Toya’s laidback vocal generating enough laidback attitude sure to fill floors nationwide. J. Rotem laces Toya with a blaring, Middle-Eastern groove for All Eyes On Me that boasts an infectious cascade of marching drums, handclaps, and a cameo from Paul Wall. Hey Fella, featuring Toya’s ex-beau Slim Thug, sounds more like a “come hither” type record with a catchy-enough-for-the-clubs melody and rhythm. And Gangsta Grillz is Toya’s ode to the “chopped and screwed” club sound her hometown is famous for that surprisingly isn’t ruined by a cameo from Mike “Most Unnecessary Rapper In History” Jones.
After the club intermission, the album ventures right back into deeper territory with the album’s centerpiece Obvious. A tried but true tale of mistaking complacency and fear for love, Toya showcases her songwriting and vocalizing skills in a simple yet effective manner for what is sure to be a career staple. Scott Storch stops thru with his skittering drums and synths for I’m Good which sees Toya with some genuine vitriol in her delivery of kicking some loser to the curb. And then she has Jermaine Dupri help her close down the album in a downright sexy fashion with the “grown and sexy” vibe of This Song which has Toya effortlessly enticing her man into the bedroom to record a late night “duet”.
They say that she who laughs last, laughs hardest. And seeing as how she has managed to make the most fluid and consistently entertaining solo album from any DC member, past or present, I suggest Toya let out a chuckle or two right about. . .