Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Way I See It

Preeminent R&B artist of the '90s slays his competition by laying on the subtlety.

Soul revivalists play up the emotive--gospel-loving workouts that mesh comfortably with the melismatic overkill of pop singing in the karaoke age. Raphael Saadiq has something else in mind--a filler-less Motown album. Only on the doowop-con-Espaņol "Callin" and the sweetly woozy "Oh Girl" does he stray from the bright, swift, clearly hooked aesthetic of Holland-Dozier-Holland producing the Temptations circa 1965. And with the aesthetic comes the attitude. Saadiq is a romantic who stays true to the deliberate simplicity of such titles as "Sure Hope You Mean It" and "Just One Kiss." But his adaptable baritone is always crisp and cocky--he never threatens to assume the fetal position if he doesn't get the extreme cuddling he craves. And just to show he's a modern guy, he'll proposition you straight up once he lures you into taking that walk outside.

Blender, Oct. 2008