10 Years Later: A Definitive Ranking Of Musiq Soulchild’s ‘Luvanmusiq’
Luvanmusiq is more than Musiq Soulchild’s fourth studio album. After a three-year hiatus that gave way to a fresh start at Atlantic Records, it was his defining moment. “The aim for this record is basically to reintroduce myself,” the former Def Soul signee said in a statement.
While at the helm of a new chapter in his career, the Philadelphia native—born Taalib Johnson—didn’t sever ties with classic cuts he established on his freshman album, Aijuswanaseing, as much as he poked at the limits placed on artists of his kind. “I’m doing my best to maintain the traditions of soul music,” he told Jet Magazine, “hopefully helping to inspire the idea that there’s more to music than just neo-soul and R&B music by injecting and infusing other genres such as hip-hop music.”
Though Soulchild rides solo on the 12-set opus, its lead single “B.U.D.D.Y.” accomplished just that, triggering an onslaught of remixes from rap mainstays like T.I., Fat Joe and one of the then-aspiring emcee’s favorite rappers, Lupe Fiasco.
After traversing the world of rap with his “Heartbeat” throwback, the Grammy-nominated artist would later premiere his labor of love’s softer standout, “Teachme, ” on the brink of the album’s debut on March 13, 2007. The Soulstar follow-up, which peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, thrust Musiq Soulchild back into the spotlight like he never left—only this time he had officially come of age.
“I’ve been away for a little while. The industry’s changed and so have I – personally, mentally, psychologically,” he said of his return. “I look at my previous three albums as grade school, middle school and high school. Now with this new album, [Luvanmusiq], [it’s] like I’m going off to college.”
With a definitive ranking of its lowest to highest points, we commemorate Luvanmusiq on its 10th anniversary.
In an ode to his future soulmate, Musiq Soulchild details his fear of settling for someone other than the love of his life, whom he has yet to put a face or name to. “Right now I just wanna be staring into your eyes / Right now I’m so lost but when I find you I’ll be found,” he croons over the piano. The most somber track on Luvanmusiq leaves much to be desired on the lyrical front and unravels like a misfit when trailing the feel-good “Betterman,” but its beauty is far from absent when taken in isolation.
Soulchild tests the boundaries of “the wait” with his significant other on “Takeyouthere,” attesting that intimacy doesn’t have to be one-note, but with lines like, “We all have our days and our sleepless nights when we wanna get some,” the lyrics aren’t nearly as dynamic as its artist. Save for an electrifying guitar break and a luminous vocal performance, “Takeyouthere” pales in comparison to the ballads that follow on this list.
“Ridiculous” is impossible to miss with blaring horns looming over a smitten Soulchild, who pelts out “Just being with’chu is the truth / Without you, I’m a liar” on the anthem, which coronates the woman most on his mind. Often outdone by its gratifying instrumental, however, the eighth track evades a happy medium with its message.
9. Ms. Philadelphia
Tapping into the fine art of storytelling, “Ms. Philadelphia” sounds like it was pulled directly from Aijuswanaseing. Co-written by Ne-Yo, the sonic nod to Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” pulls the listener into the middle of Musiq Soulchild’s casual one-on-one with a woman from the west side of his hometown. Over drinks, the two strangers discuss everything from pets to politics before the fully enchanted singer concludes he doesn’t want to take things slow if his newfound interest permits.
Following a string of ballads, the funk-driven “Makeyouhappy” keeps monotony at bay, though it might seem misplaced at first listen. With braggadocios lyrics like, “I can be anything that you want / I could thug it or love it / So what’s it gonna be? / Bet I could make you happy,” Musiq jolts past his trademark sound, making way for the pleasant surprise. Landing in the center of Luvanmusiq, the Warryn Campbell production is the boost we didn’t know we needed ahead of the apex that is the album’s second half. Turn this bop all the way up for optimum value.
It’s hard not to be won over by the 70s-influenced “Greatestlove,” which pulls off the album’s turbulence-free landing. With verses like “All we had were letters till we formed the words / Started from the lyrics till we found the verses that can bridge us through,” Soulchild effortlessly binds love and music together through simile and metaphor, making the closing track his finest example of poetry on the album.
“Today” finds Musiq opting to trade in the single life for the straight and narrow path of commitment. With assurance, he sings, “Today I’ve made up my mind / I’m gonna take this chance, bet my life on this / Cause this precious love I’ve found in you / My yesterdays are gone and tomorrow’s never promised to no one / I finally decided girl that my today is you.” While a few ballads on the album could crack a list of wedding song contenders, “Today” is the most obvious choice for the occasion.
Soulchild puts a grown and sexy spin on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for the duly-titled “Lullaby.” The alluring number is Luvanmusiq’s softest tune offered by a sensitive Soulchild, who promises to put his significant other’s “mind at ease” with coaxes like, “I can make your body (twinkle, twinkle) / And make your eyes glisten like (little stars).”
There’s no room for questions on the groovy “Betterman,” produced by Raphael Saadiq, which finds Musiq ready to give his all to the woman who turns his outlook on love around. If the preceding “Teachme” presented his conflict with affection, the upbeat track is the answer that leaves listeners celebrating as well. Though light-hearted in aura, “Betterman” stands as a testament to Soulchild’s evolution as both an artist and man.
Luvanmusiq’s undisputed hip-hop favorite, “B.U.D.D.Y., sparks memory of Musiq’s debut single, “Just Friends,” all while teasing his foray into rap seven years down the line. Steered by its Taana Gardner sample, the Lab Ratz-produced track is hands down Soulchild’s most successful attempt at coloring outside of the lines.
Musiq flexes his falsetto on the spellbinding “Millionaire,” where he swats off the temptation of single-man escapades in the name of love. Floating on a see-saw of low and high notes, his range is undeniable over verses like, “(If I had) a dollar every time I heard a yes / I would be (a millionaire), but I’d settle for whatever, as long as I could get with (you)” that drive the song’s message home. Co-produced by Theron Feemster and Harold Lilly, the ninth track is sure to crack open a case of deja vu for millennials familiar with Chris Brown’s “No Bullsh*t.”
Though a solid project, Luvanmusiq is by no means cohesive, because what unclichéd romance is? If there is one song that captures the essence of Musiq Soulchild’s fourth studio album to perfection, “Teachme” is it. The second single tells the story of a man desperate to get this thing called love right, even if it means putting his pride behind him to unlearn all he’s been taught about manhood. Driven by a stirring piano and introspective lyrics, the heartfelt plea is a fan favorite for more reasons than one.