Keep It Comin'

Mustachioed, heavy-lidded Keith Sweat is a smooth-talking ’90s love man with something for almost everyone. Females swoon over his velvety strong-arm tactics; males look to him for the freshest dance beat around (and, probably, some pointers). Keep It Comin’ demonstrates Sweat’s prowess in the studio and elsewhere: The first half, conveniently tagged ”Dance Floor,” sidles up to you and winks; the second, ”Bedroom,” dims the lights and locks the doors. All along the way Sweat alternately pleads, cajoles, acts hurt, makes grandiose promises, and finally demands ”Give Me What I Want.”

He comes out of his corner with a whoop and a growl on a hotheaded title cut, exemplifying the revamped R&B style known as new jack swing, which takes its stylistic cues from hip-hop’s jumpy, driving beat and its lyric ones from the come-ons of black pop balladry. ”Keep It Comin”’ is catchy and funky, something to look forward to when it presides over dance-music radio, as it probably will. Then again, the next tune, ”Spend a Little Time,” is catchy and funky too, and it sounds a lot like the one two songs later, ”I Really Love You” — and they all sound like Sweat’s 1990 hit, ”Make You Sweat.”

That grouchy, sexy, undeniably danceable tune was Sweat’s finest moment, proving he could put together complex hip-hop with as much finesse as his first producer, the brilliant Teddy Riley. But Keep It Comin’ needs another song just as good as ”Make You Sweat,” not three more that sound just like it. For the first time, the singer sounds more relaxed and insinuating on the smoothies than on the workouts, letting his not-very-supple voice flutter mournfully around ”Why Me Baby” and getting practically breathless with sincerity on ”I Want to Love You Down.” At unsettling moments, though, his coercive talk veers dangerously close to a date rapist’s patter: He whines, ”Why did you have to hurt me, girl?” but won’t be stopped from insisting in the chorus that ”I’m going for mine.” Later, he disingenuously claims, ”I want to be your special friend” on the odiously titled ”(There You Go) Tellin’ Me No Again.” But such moments are always followed by genuinely charming entreaties.

Sweat can be forgiven a lot by his fans: He has an uncanny ear for the hook, he’s no slouch at the mixing board, and he’s sexy as hell. In spite of its assembly-line dance tunes, Keep It Comin’ holds together because it’s self-aware — about being background music for the listener’s love life and about being the new Keith Sweat record. The singer never intrudes on the evening he’s narrating by showing off. That would spoil the mood. The generosity of Keep It Comin’ is typical of the new love man — you find the partner, he’ll provide the soundtrack. B+

Keep It Comin'
  • Music