Transition – Ryan Leslie

Ryan Leslie is back after with his second album just nine months after his self-titled debut. Granted, Ryan Leslie was received quite well by critics, but wasn’t exactly a chart-shattering record like something Ne-Yo would have been expected to conjure up.  Just like the first album, Transition is a one-man show in terms of songwriting and production, although I would venture to say that this is only a slight improvement. Listening to the album, you get the feeling that the level of Ryan Leslie’s musicality is higher than what his two albums so far have revealed it to be; other than a few standout tracks like “Addicted” and “You’re Not My Girl” (the lead single), he’s somehow failed to make a splash in the urban scene. Is he just out of sync with what kind of music is hot right now? Or is it because so-called R&B fans are hopping on every auto-tuned song that sounds hot in the club when everyone’s tipsy?

Transition has a couple of playlist-worthy tunes, but most of it is midtempo fare that is so chill and laid-back that it risks sounding just bland. Songs like “Never Gonna Break Up” and “Is It Real Love?” would fall under this category, although oddly enough, the instrumentation on “I Choose You” is so sparse that the song itself is really allowed to shine through – until you realize about a minute into the song that the repetitiveness actually isn’t going anywhere. There are definitely Stevie-Wonder-influenced moments, with breezy synths on songs like “To the Top,” but after the first few minutes into the album, you can see why R-Les can’t find his place in the club – the only exception may be “You’re Not My Girl,” which has a thumping beat that sets it apart from the rest of the album. Other tracks that save the album from downright mediocrity include the island-flavoured “Nothing” and “All My Love,” which has an insanely catchy hook.

If this album is proof of anything, it is that Ryan Leslie has heaps of talent. Unfortunately, he just needs to harness it better and channel it into a larger variety of songs so he can branch out from the laid-back-midtempo-ballad sound. A club-banger or two along with a couple truly soulful slow jams would have definitely raised Transition from a decent/good album to a smash record.