Thursday, May 23, 2024

Do Wah Diddy: Sean Combs is the Ed Sullivan of Jazzy Hip Hop on “The Love Album: Off the Grid” with 30 Guest Stars and Phil Collins’ Drumset


Sean Diddy Combs’s new album, “The Love Album: Off the Grid,” should have been called “Clearances.”

I would love to be the lawyer whose billable hours went into clearing all the bits and pieces of samples and “interpolations” on this record. That alone would probably make a book,

There are approximately 30 guest stars on this album who contributed to 26 tracks. But there are maybe one or two whole songs that sound finished and not just rambling meanders at a late night cocktail party. There are certainly a lot of strings, no doubt made on a computer. (They don’t sound human.)

One way to get into “Off the Grid”: think of it as a throwback to The Ed Sullivan Show, with Diddy presenting acts draped against his own red-velvet curtain imagination.

On the album’s one true single, The Weeknd’s “Another One Like Me,” Phil Collins’ drumbeat from “In the Air Tonight” punctuates the production over and over. Let’s hope Phil was remunerated well for his time. There are versions of this song already all over YouTube that work better than this one, minus Collins and more economically cut.

Diddy does not know the meaning of “too much.” He also can’t grasp having a beginning, middle, and end to a song. Justin Bieber’s “Moments” starts strong but waffles even during its strongest moments. Still, I’d love to see the credits for the musicians on this track. It may turn out to be Bieber’s comeback if played right. (But why does it drift off? I wish it had an ending.)

There are a couple of tracks in which you might be able to make sense of what’s happening. I really like “Stay Awhile,” with vocals by a singer named Nija that sounds like its underpinning comes from Herb Alpert’s “Rise.” The track is just two minutes thirty five seconds, which makes it considerably shorter than most of the “songs” on this album. Diddy’s rap even sounds like it fits in. The same can be said for the track that immediately follows, called “Homecoming” featuring Jozzy. Teyana Taylor is lucky to get a succinct song called “Closer to God.” There’s also a nice turn from HERMusic aka Gabrielle Wilson at the end of the album, but I’d like to hear her version.

Maybe you could call “Off the Grid” cubist or mixed media. Diddy is going for a jazzy angle, that’s for sure, and a very “Quiet Storm” sort of melange. On the 7 minute tribute to Diddy’s late ex, Kim Porter, by John Legend and Babyface, the whole thing is thrown in doubt. But when he hits gold, as with Jeremih– on a lovely little song called “Boohoo– you actually feel like he’s totally in control. Diddy’s specialty is being able to hear the bits and pieces — he or someone must have listened to hundreds of hours of previously recorded music — and jigsaw them all together. For example: a track called “Intermission” is the repurposing of a more recent recording by Stax songwriter David Porter. He’s not even listed as the singer on Diddy’s album. And unless the clearance people come knocking, no one will know the difference.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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