When it comes to soul and R&B music, Hawai’i isn’t the first place most people think of. However, artists have been trying for years to crack the market without much luck. Nohelani Cypriano recorded “Lihue” in 1978 at a time when there wasn’t an issue to mix up disco with soul, jazz, and funk, while Loyal Garner took some hints from Teena Marie and Cheryl Lynn and created “Shave Ice”. Cecilio & Kapono recorded the funky “Someday”, Kalapana had “Black Sand”, and of course cratediggers known the hidden secrets of Lemuria‘s “Hunk Of Heaven”. Fans of jazz-flavored pop will of course call Seawind and Hiroshima personal favorites, but must of these artists and songs were at their peak 30 years ago. While reggae has been embraced by Hawaiians, it seems covering soul and R&B is almost touch and go, and sometimes leading down the road of novelty status.
Brysen G. is a singer who wants to show off his brand of R&B with his new album, Brown (GO Aloha Entertainment), and while he has the look to be the next Chris Brown, Usher, or Trey Songs, that’s where he traps himself: by trying to be someone else. His songs are aimed towards pre-teens and teens, a young man who is all about impressing the young ladies at the mall by telling them “Label You My Girlfriend”, and “Girl You’re Looking Real Good”. Unfortunately, the lyrics and methods in which he sings have been done for the last ten years, he sounds like what came before but doesn’t bring anything new or original to his work. What I’m saying is that you could bring any other singer onto these instrumentals and it might be better suited for them. To come off as just “Hawai’i’s version of” a trusted formula is not going to work, and it’s going to get you lost in the crowd.
G. credits himself as a songwriter, maybe wanting to be the next NE-YO, which is a good thing, but the lyrics are so amateurish that it’s embarrassing to hear, more embarrassing to know someone approved them without questioning it. What would work is if he found better songwriters to help shape and develop his voice, which I feel is something that still needs development. He has something, but what may be working isn’t working with the songs that are on this album.
Let me put it another way. If these songs were submitted as a demo to American Idol for contestants to cover, would they even pass the mail room? Most likely not. I’d like to hear him cover songs that may not be expected of him, and see how he turns them out. Or he can move towards doing background work for other artists. Grown is hopefully a pre-cursor to the potential of a rising star.