2001, Music

1st Born Second (2001) by Bilal

Is it just me or does Bilal sound like Snoop on the opening? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s weird. Anyway…

Bilal has a pretty good sense of melody, there’s a fair amount of catchy stuff here (though there is way too much material, which I will get to in a minute). It’s clear he’s a pretty talented neo soul songwriter, sort of in a post D’Angelo vein. Apparently he had some help reigning in the songs but I’m kind of curious what a similar album with, say, 10 songs instead of 15 (15!!!) would have sounded like.

Some of his lyrics are pretty good, though I don’t always get the point he is trying to make (such as on “Second Child”, which maybe I just need to listen to more).

The vibe is very neo soul turn of the century. There’s an even heavier hip hop influence on some of the tracks, but that’s not true across the entirety of the record. Some of the music sounds kind of live but plenty of it sounds looped. It is very, very clearly indebted sonically to D’Angelo and his contemporaries. (Because I know D’Angelo’s music better that’s what I hear.)

Bilal’s voice is pretty good, though again it is indebted into the kind of coy style of neo soul crooning. He only sounds like Snoop to me when he’s singing.

The thing is interminably long – it is one of those double albums pretending it’s one because it’s on CD. It goes on and on and on. There’s only one skit in addition to the intro (if memory serves), so the rest are songs, not all of them up to the same level and plenty of them longer than they need to be. The sequencing is also bad as the longer songs – with the exception of the longest song – are in the second half of the record. This makes it feel even longer. As I said, if he really had a more freeform style before the producers got a hold of him, I’d be more interested in a record this long with longer, weirder tracks. That would be more distinct at least. (Though I don’t know if it would be less boring.)

So though I think this guy is clearly a talent, I think this is a bit of a mess. He’s too derivative of the ’90s neo soul trailblazers and the record is just ridiculously long, with not enough variation and not enough songs.


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