ThaWilsonBlock Magazine Issue76

Dancing Shadows by Jhantu Randall

In an age where genre is merely a word, true R&B seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Between
rappers who sing in a mono tone or singers who try to flow like Young Thug, when an artist says they're putting out an R&B album, I get a bit apprehensive about it. If Tyrese proclaimed he was bringing back soulful R&B, it was Mario who took up the challenge.

It’s been about 9 years since his last release so he has been mainly forgotten by the mainstream public which could be used to his advantage. Through his music, Mario has always kept an aura of mystery around himself, so in a world of over saturation it only makes sense that artists such as Chris Brown and Trey Songz would pass him. It’s this sense of mystery which could be Mario’s biggest asset with this new album, Dancing Shadows. Coinciding with his guest starring role on Empire, this could very well be the promotion needed to push this album into a best selling album category and possibly a grammy nomination next year.

The production is reminiscent of something the Weeknd might use, but beyond the initial beat lays an array of different sound which seem to span the decades. If put together correctly, this album could hold some timeless music. Vocally, Mario has seemed to improve on his strength, especially in his upper register. He now is able to holds certain notes with a noticeable command whereas on previous albums, you could hear him starting to fade.

The title track is a unique mix which incorporates a modern club joint with almost a seductive baseline. He sings most of this track in his upper register, but he adds a distortion effect to his voice about 3 bars into every verse he sings which leaves the listener with a lasting memory of what they just heard. Drowning is a track which holds many layers, the lyrics point towards a song about losing yourself in another, but upon multiple listens the word Drowning itself appears to be a metaphor for losing yourself in the moment altogether. Gold Plates left me definitely wanting more as the beat itself immediately brings you in. Mirror is my personal favorite as Mario laments look in the mirror to see, free and believe yourself which is a message that I think needs to be promoted more in recent times.

The album holds 11 tracks which Mario carries with ease. Showcasing his talent in a way I haven't heard before, showing growth as an artist and an individual which is quite refreshing. By not focusing on specific moments in his life, his songs allow him the room to draw pictures that many of the listeners can personally relate to. With the hopeful re-emergence of Neo Soul on the horizon, its nice to hear an album that can’t quite be classified. It’s due to this that the listener can go in unsure and come out satisfied. It looks like true R&B was dancing in the shadows all along.

Street Sign Photography