There’s a malady affecting R&B music, in which a song’s sexual content is reduced to its lowest-brow common denominator. If a track can score a striptease, accompany an MTV spring break report, or if it commands a woman — à la Juvenile’s hit — to ”back that a– up,” it’s probably so afflicted. This plague isn’t so much offensive as it is boring. Carnality has its place, but when artists live up to every below-the-booty stereotype, they become laughably predictable.
Case in point: My Name Is Joe, the sophomore effort from R&B crooner Joe, whose horny histrionics lack authentic bump or grind. A pleasant enough singer with a high, flowery voice, Joe comes off like Babyface meets Al B. Sure! Despite his talent, no one can survive sleaze-cheese like ”Table for Two,” with its ersatz porno moaning and lines like ”your body’s on my menu” (thanks, but I’ll have the chicken). His come-ons might go over better if supported by something other than boilerplate pop-soul production. Joe’s best when his wispy vocals are contrasted, like when he cameoed memorably on Big Pun’s 1998 hit, ”Still Not a Player.” In fact, the best song here is ”Thank God I Found You,” a collaboration with Nas and Mariah Carey (which already appears on Carey’s 1999 Rainbow); Nas’ grit and Carey’s expert emoting make Joe sing with unexpected feeling. Alas, ”I Believe in You,” his duet with ‘N Sync, is still bland.
For all his lover man posturing, Joe displays a cruel hostility toward women. On ”One Life Stand” he states how he ”put up with your bitchy moods/It’s time that you put papa in the groove,” and on ”Get Crunk Tonight,” he instructs ”You’re not my girl/So just keep your mouth closed.” Why would a female audience endure this when they can have sensitive and innovative heartthrobs like Maxwell and D’Angelo? Against that competition, this regular-guy-monikered mack falls below average. C-