Jaguar Wright

Jaguar Wright

Denials Delusions and Decisions

MCA

You know you’re in for it before you even get to push play. Pick the CD up out of the tray, and Jaguar Wright grins manaically and gives you the finger. While this isn’t really a metaphor for the music here, it sets a tone: Jag is NOT who you want to be messing with. She’s a singer/songwriter out of Philly with talent and attitude in roughly equal quantities: namely, huge and huge.

Opening track “The What-Ifs” sets the tone perfectly: over a slow sexy groove set by Roots members Leonard “Hub” Hubbard and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (and produced and co-written by fellow Roots associate member Scott Storch), Jaguar starts reading some fool the riot act: “I got all the right questions/You got all the wrong answers/I got all of the sadness/You got all of the laughter” — and that’s just the start. She not only puts down the guy some more, she goes after the other girl, and herself (“Common sense shoulda played a part“), and fate and life itself. It’s a stunner in full-on Erykah Badu mode, and I’m loving it all the way… because it’s gorgeous, and because I don’t want her to beat me up.

Jag’s voice is rich and pretty and hard-edged; this is true even when she gets all soft and welcoming (like on “Country Song” and the Patti LaBelle remake “Love Need and Want You”), but she sounds more at home when she’s going off. “Same Shit Different Day” pops up in two parts, both of them as beautiful and venomous as a green mamba snake. And the two tracks featuring Black Thought (also from The Roots, for those that just don’t know) sound like theme songs for R&B singers who burn down their husbands’ houses. Which is always a good thing.

All along, the music and Jag’s beautiful kick-yr-ass voice set a tone I’m all about: soul-searching rhythm and blues But this album doesn’t hit its peak until the penultimate track, the nine-minute-plus masterpiece “Self-Love.” No, it’s not what you think, you pervert — it’s all about accepting yourself, even if your shitty family and your know-nothing friends and your asshole paramours don’t feel you. It’s insanely inspiring, going from soft to hard and back again, and it could change lives.

This is, so far, the R&B album of the year. Ignore Jag at your own peril. She will not be ignored.

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