The U.K.-bred female duo Floetry burst onto the scene a few years back with a distinct blend of R&B and spoken word. The group's second studio album, Flo'Ology, is a stripped-down effort that focuses on the pair's strengths for a tight, eleven-track ride.
Floetry is Marsha Ambrosius (the songstress) and Natalie Stewart (the "floacist") singing and rhyming over neo-soul and hip-hop beats. This sounds standard, but Floetry stands out because of the chemistry between Ambrosius and Stewart and because of their approach to songwriting. Rather than create standard hip-hop/R&B, the two create their own sound by jumping between the genres and avoiding the clichés that usually occur from this combination. Ambrosius and Stewart work together in every track, constantly bouncing off each other.
Ambrosius's voice is impressive in itself. Although she occasionally gets a bit dramatic with her delivery, she can belt with the best of them, and she confidently expresses this gift. Stewart's rhymes and delivery are ultimately what give the duo its edge. Her very British accent and syncopated complex phrasing give every track an exotic quality that is rarely found in popular music. Her rhymes are rather heady, adding a layer of intelligence that elevates everything around it.
The album is a more confident than Floetic, the group's 2002 debut, both lyrically and aesthetically. There is no filler here, just a series of tracks ranging from above-average to great. The low-key opener, "Blessed 2 Have," is a bland start, but things quickly pick up with the first single "Supastar," featuring Common. The combination of Floetry's easy chemistry and Common's swagger works well over the carefree bounce of Scott Storch's production.
Storch also produced the album's highpoint, the sizzling "My Apology." The thumping bass kick throbs next to Floetry's call-and-response verses. Like most of their tracks, this one is exciting and unpredictable, with the singing and the spoken word sharing equal spotlight. "Let Me In," another standout, finds the pair demanding more intimacy in a relationship over a smoky groove that builds into a cacophony of funky drums and deep bass. "Closer" flirts with tripped-out electronics and whips them into a sexy undulating romp. Ballads play a large part in the Floetry sound, and although on first listen they are not as exciting as the more up-tempo numbers, they are well-crafted songs that are superior to most R&B ballads. The floacist takes the lead on "Sometimes You Make Me Smile," morphing it into a love poem rather than a tired love song.
Flo'Ology bumps with creativity and soul, a rare feat for commercial R&B these days. Thanks to the unusual blend of dramatic vocals and coffee-house spoken word, Floetry has created an intriguing sound that is both sensual and intellectual - a sound that is worth your attention.
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