Simplicity and class are what make Chinua Hawk’s A Beautifully Complicated Life an absolute must-listen-to record.
In his fourth CD consisting of cover songs and original material, the award-winning singer/songwriter establishes himself as one of the most relevant R&B artists on the scene today. Hawk may not be a household name, but you’ve probably heard his work on TV and on the big screen. His songs have been featured on the CBS drama Joan of Arcadia and in movies including First Sunday and Block Party. He has also collaborated with the likes of Wyclef Jean and Kanye West, among other well-known musicians.
I was more than pleased with A Beautifully Complicated Life. Hawk has an organic voice, meaning it’s unforced, pure and honest. His runs are simple with few effects, allowing us to really hear the music and message being conveyed. There’s also a lot of texture to his tone which makes him sound very comforting and soulful. His singing immediately puts you at ease, so you feel as if you’ve been listening to him forever.
As a matter of fact, his original material sounds like it could be on mainstream radio right now. Standout tracks like “Back 2 Life,” “Nickel To Spare” and “After The Rain” ooze smooth grooves and sensual vibes that leave you all warm and fuzzy inside. However, it’s his interpretation of hits such as “Careless Whisper,” “Sailing,” “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Let’s Stay Together” that will definitely grab your attention.
For the most part, he doesn’t completely overhaul the covers, but rather adds some tweaks here and there to make them his own. As an uber fan of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” I can’t say this version is an improvement on the original because the sax (which makes the song so epic) is not featured prominently here.
As far as “Sailing” goes, there’s not much difference between Christopher Cross’ and Hawk’s renderings– the tempo is still the same, just infused with more R&B flair. With the Al Green classic, “Let’s Stay Together,” Hawk opts for a faster pace which makes it sound more contemporary and fresh.
Yet, he completely transforms Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Hawk begins with some chanting before turning it into an acoustic bluegrass number complete with a country twang. In theory, it shouldn’t work, but somehow he pulls it off, and it’s pretty cool.
Overall, Hawk delivers an incredible performance on this album that will leave you pleasantly surprised from beginning to end. I honestly can’t recommend this CD highly enough.
For more information on A Beautifully Complicated Life, please visit Chinua Hawk’s website.
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