20 years after their last album, just hearing the name Jodeci is like getting in a time capsule to the era the R&B quartet were most successful.
Suddenly, it's the 1990s, new jack swing is massively popular, teenage girls throughout the western world are falling in love with the bedroom-eyed soul of Boyz II Men, Dru Hill and Ginuwine, and the hottest producer in town is Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds. Jodeci are arguably so inextricably linked to that place and time that even their mere existence in 2015 is a bizarre anachronism.
Jodeci could have been expected to either resolutely stick to the sound that made them enormously successful or to make a ham-fisted attempt at modernity and relevancy. The actual answer is somewhere between the two - although firmly leaning to the latter.
While no one else is making these kind of slow jams right now, 'The Past, The Present, The Future' doesn't sound quite as outdated as you might have feared. Some of the credit for this must go to Timbaland - who co-produces two tracks - but the standout track is actually the album opener, 'Too Hot', which displays an attack reminiscent of Ice Cube's 'You Can Do It'.
New jack swing often suffered from being lasciviously sexual one moment and cloyingly saccharine the next, and 'The Past, The Present, The Future' is no exception. 'Jennifer' is an over-wrought ballad with vocals so desperate you assume the members of Jodeci are pleading for their lives, but it's immediately followed by the overt 'Body Parts', a song which implores you to "grip my body like you're gripping that Bacardi" and "let me touch your body parts".
Mind you, that's still a better lyric than, "You are my stress reliever / My sex receiver / I'll be your pleaser" (from the unintentionally hilarious 'Stress Reliever'). Pro tip: if you want to have sex ever again, do not, under any circumstances, refer to the object of your affections as your "sex receiver".
Initially, 'The Past, The Present, The Future' is a fun trip down memory lane. New jack swing produced some genuinely brilliant songs (shout out to 'This Is How We Do It'!) and there's something of a Proust-ian rush to be had from hearing all four members of Jodeci attempt to out-sing one another simultaneously.
Ultimately, though, it's an unnecessary comeback, but not because it sounds dated – it's just that 'The Past, The Present, The Future' has rebooted more of the bad tropes from that era than the good.
Words: Joe Rivers
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