A review of Get Used To It by The Brand New Heavies

“Let’s Do It Again,” a song with a dance beat, seems to celebrate the Brand New Heavies. The subjects of the album’s focus are music and love. The music on the album is actually quite vivid without being very original—and I certainly wish the lyrics were better.

By Daniel Garrett

The Brand New Heavies
Get Used To It
Executive Producer: Michael Ross
Delicious Vinyl/Universal Music, 2006

The Brand New Heavies are N’Dea Davenport (singer), Jan Kincaid (drummer, keys), Andrew Levy (bass, programming), Simon Bartholomew (guitars); and the band, ethnically integrated and featuring one woman, makes soulful popular music: and their song “We’ve Got” declares their ability to satisfy. N’Dea Davenport’s wailing voice sings of love despite mistreatment in “I Don’t Know Why (I Love You),” a song with a light, somewhat jazzy, somewhat funky, rhythm and blues. “Get Used To It,” a song about good intentions and the necessity of accepting another person’s individuality and growth, has a very clean sound, a nice arrangement. “Sex God” features a jazz-inspired vocal—stylized, confident and coy, expressive, and there is a blasting horn sound and also percussion and choral arrangements. It is the diverse musical details along with the urgency of the repeated line “I want you now” that make the song evocative. “Let’s Do It Again,” a song with a dance beat, seems to celebrate the Brand New Heavies. The subjects of the album’s focus are music and love. The music on the album is actually quite vivid without being very original—and I certainly wish the lyrics were better.

Two songs, one exploring love, one exploring music: N’Dea Davenport’s voice is accusatory—direct and soulful—in her impersonation of a narrator reacting against a man running a romantic game on her—a strategy of deception—in “We Won’t Stop,” a song of sexual betrayal and a relationship’s destruction. There is a call for bringing back the funk in music in “Right On.” Making music is not about money or routine dancing or videos, say the lyrics of “Music,” a song addressed to a music lover.

The possibility of freedom is the discovery in the cheery “I Just Realized.”

A male voice—soft—then a female voice—speaks about the commitment to love in “All Fired Up.” The song “All Fired Up” is not a bad idea—nor is it a bad execution of an idea—but it simply does not go far enough: it is as if the band lacks a sense of more than contemporary context and competition, as if their standards are not as high as they could be. The music does not seem to be a challenge for its makers or for its listeners.

An exchange focused on getting and giving—and “love is what you make it baby”—is the subject of “Love Is.” My worst suspicion is that the Brand New Heavies are an ordinary band with an excellent production budget (so things sound good even when they are not good). Using television as a reference to current events, and alluding to the turmoil following hurricane Katrina, is the song “I’ve Been Touched.” (Katrina was a much televised event, but why does one need to watch television to know what is happening in the world? Looking at one’s own life—and at the lives of those around one—could inform one about all kinds of things—history, politics, social conflict, personal dilemmas.) The rhythm of “I’ve Been Touched,” which counsels compassion, rises and falls, as does my sense of this band’s accomplishment.

About the reviewer: Daniel Garrett has written about music for AllAboutJazz.com, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Option, and PopMatters.com, including commentary on Sade, the Afghan Whigs, Tupac Shakur, Kitchens of Distinction, Matthew Sweet, and Annie Lennox; and his commentaries on Lizz Wright, Leela James, Skye, Morrissey, Sinead O’Connor, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, and Al Green have appeared on the web pages of The Compulsive Reader. Daniel Garrett has written also about art, books, business, film, and politics, and his work has appeared inThe African, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Offscreen, Rain Taxi, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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