The funny thing about crying “wolf,” or in the case of R&B trio KING, “new album,” is that after you do it so many times and fail to deliver on the promise, people begin to doubt you. For KING, which consists of twins Paris and Amber Strother and their friend Anita Bias, their full-length debut was beginning to become the stuff of legend. They’d first come to us five years ago with The Story EP, a blissful, three-song set that enraptured listeners with heavenly harmonies and worthwhile lyrics breaking from the R&B climate of the time. After getting co-signs from everybody from Prince to Erykah Badu — who, according to rumor, had the group signed to her Control Freaq label at one point — the clamor for an official album grew pretty loud, and it seemed one would come with the release of singles like “In the Meantime” and “Mister Chameleon.” However, when no album materialized, it seemed like the ladies were pulling a Jay Electronica on us. Much to the delight of fans, however, that wasn’t the case and now their debut, We Are KING, is here. But it begs the question, was the end result worth the wait?
One needs only to listen to album opener “The Right One” to find their answer. It starts with hazy, distorted synth before flourishing before our ears into a beautiful mid-tempo number about finding Mr. or Ms. Right. Nothing about the song is rushed, nor is it trying to compress its silky, lush harmonies into three minutes or less. It’s pretty exemplary of most of We Are KING. Rather than follow the trappings of Top 40 R&B radio, with its current leanings toward sparse, slightly industrial sounding fodder, the ladies take their time, crafting quiet storm-ready songs that just feel good. From lead single “The Greatest,” a tribute to boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, to the familiar tracks like “Meantime” and “Chameleon,” this touch creates many memorable moments throughout the set’s 57-minute runtime.
Of the new crop of songs, though all are good, there are some obvious standouts. “Red Eye,” which is sort of a reprise of The Jones Girls’ classic “Nights Over Egypt,” shows that the group can easily pull off the art of seduction over a groove that could’ve easily fit somewhere in the mid-to-late ’80s yet is so modern and fresh that it belongs squarely in this day and age. As atmospheric synths lay down a pillow-soft layer of sound, guitar and bass slink around to tantalize the listener into sneaking away for a late-night voyage. Then there’s “Love Song,” a romantic, electro-R&B slow jam that uses distorted vocals, synths and whistles to create what’s sure to be a staple on any R&B lovers playlist to set the mood. Elsewhere, “Oh, Please!” whips up is a sweet confection of a track that finds the ladies on the hunt for love. It’s perhaps the most fun song of the set, with a spoken word rap at the middle of the song that winks at those found in old school tracks.
The only real bummer here is that we’ve already heard nearly half of the tracks included on the set (maybe even more if you’ve happened to catch the ladies on tour in the five years since The Story). But, perhaps foreseeing that conclusion, the ladies did make things interesting for “Hey,” “Supernatural” and “The Story,” the three tracks that introduced them to the world. They offer extended versions here, stretching each song well beyond the five-minute range by adding delicate intros and meandering outros that enable the songs to steep and build, allowing listeners to further wrap themselves in the ethereal harmonies and evergreen melodies that KING provides.
We Are KING, doubles down on the trio’s dreamy and lush brand of R&B that kept fans hungry for more material. By sticking to their guns and continuing to create music in the vein of what they first started, KING not only makes a fitting full-length debut with the album, they also make a statement that announces that the ladies are indeed R&B royalty.