Release Date: May 4, 2018
Record label: Columbia
Since releasing his 2015 debut 'Coming Home', Leon Bridges has found himself in an uncomfortable spot. His polished first work was perceived in some parts to be a simple, cynical re-styling of '60s soul; a time warp harking back in particular to King of the genre, Sam Cooke. Others complained of the record's lack of political stance, or its relatively inoffensive, impersonal subject matter.
Climbing out of the pigeonhole of a retro R&B act — albeit an excellent one, teleported from Sam Cooke's era to ours — Leon Bridges' sophomore record rings as an endorsement of his range. And that's a great thing for Good Thing, which tempers its pop-radio ambitions with unique bends on the age-old love song in this super-tight, 35-minute ride. The proud momma's boy from Fort Worth, TX still lets his influences peek through his pipes — you can spot Ginuwine, Prince, Curtis Mayfield and D'Angelo at various moments — but Bridge's versatility keeps us on our toes this time.
In sound and look, the Grammy-nominated Coming Home replicated one style from a bygone era with such perfectionist accuracy that Leon Bridges risked being typecast as a malt-shop soul man. Some of Bridges' subsequent featured appearances fulfilled that role, but others indicated that he was primed to break out and loosen up a bit. The singer and songwriter's second album similarly displays different approaches that skillfully build off and depart from the previous release.
Leon Bridges never set out to be a nostalgia act. Growing up in the '90s, he was devoted to the R&B of Usher and Ginuwine and his earliest performances at open-mic nights in his native Fort Worth were of neo-soul songs sketched out over readymade beats. Though his debut album, 2015's Coming Home, was a study of early '60s soul music written at the altar of Sam Cooke, Bridges strives to be considered among his contemporaries as well as his forebears.
Leon Bridges, 28, grew up listening to Ginuwine and Usher, developed as a songwriter on the Fort Worth, Texas open mic circuit, and got his break hooking up with half of Austin indie-prog-whatever quartet White Denim. None of this sounds like a recipe for retro soul, but Bridges filled his 2015 debut, Coming Home, with vintage Sixties verities so breezily rendered they felt like half-remembered snatches of old songs, which in some sense they were. So when Good Thing opens with a cloudburst of strings, harps and glockenspiel on "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand," it will seem like Bridges has simply moved up a decade to the Seventies -- especially since the next song, "Bad Bad News," has a fusion-tuned bell-bottom groove.
In 2015, Leon Bridges blew in on a breeze of nostalgia--his sweet, sun-soaked soul music winning him fast fame and plenty of comparisons to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. So after two Grammy nominations and a Gold record, Bridges faced a common fork in the road for where to go next. Do you stick with the ultra-stylized formula? Or explore what else you can do? For his sophomore effort, Good Thing, Bridges has opted for the latter, saying in a recent interview, "I want people to know I'm more than just Sixties R&B.
Leon Bridges made his name as a young artist with an affinity for old music. His 2015 debut, Coming Home, was both praised and lightly criticized for its obsessively recreated retro-soul aesthetic, right down to the pleated trousers he wears on the album's cover. With his sophomore effort Good Thing, Bridges brings his classicist R&B chops into the current century—with mixed results.
Back in 2015, Leon Bridges came out with a decidedly vintage soul record that served as a calling card for his career. It molded the Fort Worth, Texas singer-songwriter's personality into a safe, though respectable sound that crossed many generational barriers. But the marketing interrogative remained - should he follow a low-stakes, celebrated run for an older crowd, or should he appease to a younger audience? Good Thing, the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated début, Coming Home, peddles to a broader, all-bases-covered approach.
For his second album, Leon Bridges offers up a slick soul album that attempts to separate him from the iconic voices of the past that he's been likened to on his debut. 'Good Thing' takes the smoothness that we've become accustomed to in his work, but adds some much-needed modernity. This was achieved by working once again with the Dallas-Fort Worth production outfit, Niles City Sound, but transplanting the process to Los Angeles and bringing in celebrated pop producer Ricky Reed.