In 2002, a fresh, young songbird named Vivian Green released her debut album, A Love Story, which featured the Top 40 hit, "Emotional Rollercoaster." The entire album was one of my favorites to be released that year -- there was so much to like. She was young and hopeful on "Wishful Thinking," curious about love on "What Is Love?" and promised to "Be Good To You" before resolving to face her fears and "Keep On Going." Needless to say, I was impressed with her debut and thought I was ready for whatever she had coming next.
Then, three years later she returned with all of that hair and released Vivian. Sure, hair doesn't have anything to do with the voice or sound, but her overall image signified a shift in her direction, and I wasn't so sure I was going that way. I've heard a few good songs from her since those earlier years, but I've been waiting for her to come with the type of record that should've followed A Love Story. Finally, with the release of The Green Room, I think we have it.
The tone of this album is noticeably brighter than much of the music she's released in recent years. From up-tempos to the slow-tempos she handles so well, on the whole, Ms. Green has far more hits on the album than misses. On the easygoing intro track, "Remedy," Vivian sings "there's never been a remedy quite like you baby, you make me better, better, better, and I need you tonight much more ever." The laid-back vibe is just what's needed to set up "Anything Out There," which has grown on me significantly since I first heard it. By the third track, "X" she drops some of her sophisticated cool in exchange for a more urban edge. Although I think it was unnecessary, she brought rapper Freeway in for an assist where he managed to drop lines about lasagna and dangling participles (yes, really) before turning the rest of the song over to Ms. Green. Despite the initial misstep, the rest of song is a Mimi Faust-esque tale about needing to let go of her ex, but not quite being able to because he has her "hanging by a string." She manages to pull off a tone that is equal parts annoyed, resigned and playful. With each song, she explores a range of emotions experienced in everyday relationships, and presents one of many opportunities for a co-sign moment. On "Free," she's unapologetic and unwilling to compromise herself for anyone because her "spirit's too alive" and she needs to "move around." Part of her spirit includes a desire to see you move, too, because "I'm Not Prepared" starts with a command for the dancing to begin. It's a perfectly passable dance track that's easy and innocuous.
There is no shortage of slow songs, which comes as no surprise given the work on her previous albums. However, the difference is that these are not sleepers. "When Can I See You Again" and "Still Here" featuring jazz-funk keyboardist Brian Culbertson were both released ahead of the album, but "Forever" is the best of them with its romantic, Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo "Nothing Even Matters" type of vibe. From the start, I found myself swaying in the winds of the alluring melodies while being gently bumped by the love song's casual groove. "Forever" is a hard act to follow and could explain why I found "Supposed To Be Mine" comparatively whiny. Still, I was unable to escape its slinky instrumentation and the urgency expressed in Ms. Green's vocals. "Heaven" serves as a sweet reminder about the heights to which a prized relationship can reach. "Faith" is probably the most average of all the tracks and slows the album down maybe a bit too much. Thankfully, there's a highlight left, and it comes from the final cut. Vivian brings in her girls Algebra Blessett, Treena Ferebee, Laurin Talese and Leah Smith for the uplifting "Light The Universe." With songs like this and albums like R&B Divas, I hope this idea of collaboration between great voices of soul catches on.
Of her vision for the album, the Philly singer/songwriter said her goal was to "...Create music that's fun and sexy and soulful, and songs that are reflective but not morose. That's where I am in my life, and that's the kind of music I wanted to make." To that we say, mission accomplished.