Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Returning to the R’n’B arena to do battle with the Faith Evans, the Brooke Valentines, the Mariah Careys, and all the other urban female vocalists who have dropped albums in the last few weeks, Nivea’s sophomore album “Complicated” may struggle to push to the front of the pack.
The album checklist is certainly in place. Hot single (‘Okay’) – check. Hot producers of the moment (Lil Jon, R Kelly, Jermaine Dupri) – check. Good looks and style flowing out from the album cover – check.
Unfortunately, Brooke Valentine has also followed this formula, and her Lil Jon-produced ‘Girlfight’ single is better than his work here for Nivea. ‘Okay’ recycles the Youngbloodz ‘Yeah’ beat, and also features the duo dropping a guest verse. The problem is that by tweaking the beat to make it more palatable to the R’n’B market, Jon has sucked the grimy feel of the original right out of it, leaving nothing but a sugary pop throwaway. The fact that this has also been floating around for well over a year, also means that interest levels are low. As for Jermaine Dupri, although he has provided a mellow slow jam ‘Parking Lot’, his work with Mariah and Faith is markedly better than what is on display here.
In fact the above examples of Nivea perhaps being shortchanged by several producers, evokes more sympathy than anything else. It seems that the career of this ATL-ien has been dogged by bad luck since jump – the nice push she got from her appearance on Mystikal’s ‘Danger’ and her own duet with Jagged Edge, ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ didn’t really garner first album sales that “Laundromat” deserved. Couple this with a messy financial breakup with her original management team, and a similar emotional breakup with fiance Lil Wayne, and you’d perhaps understand if Nivea was ready to throw in the towel. Its to her credit however that she hasn’t, but its hard to find the feeling that she just doesn’t possess that little extra ‘spark’ to make her and her album stand out from the crowd.
While tracks like ‘No More’, ‘I Can’t Mess With You’, and the title track offer personal glimpes of an R’n’B female not seen since Mary J Blige’s “My Life”, they’re sandwiched between several fluffy fillers that try to jump onto the bandwagons of the moment (‘Indian Dance’ – reggaeton, ‘Gangsta Girl’ – R Kelly’s guitar driven production style, for example.) Other throwaway tracks like ‘Quickie’ and the remix of ‘Okay’ only serve to distract the listener from the real quality on display.
On ‘No More’ Nivea reveals her torment at the breakup of her previous relationship, and the fact that she can’t support her family the way she wants to, while ‘I Can’t Mess With You’ reuses the same sample that Mary used on ‘Everything’ to good effect. Its also one of two tracks that feature new squeeze, singer/producer The Dream, and its on the title track that Nivea airly displays her feelings for her new man.
Other cuts such as ‘Breathe’, ‘So Far’ and ‘Its All Good’ are definitely stronger than similar tracks on rivals’ albums, but as already mentioned the hype around these other females may be a lot stronger than around Nivea – this album has dropped with barely a push, and as we know in this industry, its often hype which dictates sales, not overall quality. Unfortunately for Nivea, it seems that with this album she’s destined to fly under the radar again.