Love Always Wins
  • Love Always Wins

  • Kem

Everybody wins with Kem's Love Always Wins

If a time traveler somehow stumbled into 2020 and listened to Kem's Love Always Wins album, they would be confused. They'd check their machine, questioning what the dial says. For they would be convinced they had just heard a classic record from the seventies or eighties, no way that could possibly be a new record from today.

To Kem fans, this is hardly a surprise. This classic R&B style has always been his bread and butter, and it is no different with this album. He knows what works and his albums are regularly a tribute to those artists that built the genre's foundation. Kem's had a lot of change in his life since his 2014 album, Promise to Love. He's gotten married, had two kids, and bought a house. But his music remains the same.

While the sound is familiar, Kem did change things up a little this album. Normally he does everything along, perfecting the album and then only bringing in help to lay the track down in the studio. But with this go around, he partnered up with Derek Allen who co-produced most of the album.

While the album is firmly entrenched in historic R&B sounds, that doesn't mean it all sounds the same. The album is an eclectic mix of styles, showcasing Kem's ability to experiment and push the boundaries. Lie to Me feels like classic soul, with Kem packing in the ad libs and layering his own voice over his verses and choruses, making the track feel like a full showcase of his talents. And then you swing to Can't Stop Giving Love which has this disco/funk vibe. At times, Can't Stop Giving Love feels like it's emulating some of Michael Jackson's earlier works.

And while the music often pays tribute to old school styles, the single Live Out Your Love goes one further. Sampling Marvin Gaye's Mercy, Mercy Me, Kem's opening vocals sound like he's captured the essence of Marvin Gaye himself. There are two versions of the track on the album, one with Kem alone, and another with Toni Braxton. In this case, I actually prefer the duet version. Toni Braxton's vocals just complement Kem's so well, I would love to see them work together on further tracks.

The other double feature on the album is the title track, Love Always Wins. This one drives me nuts as the melody and beat feel so familiar. It has a folksy, bluesy sound to it where you can just close your eyes and ride the wave of the song. It continues to build until the end where it feels like Kem transforms into a preacher at the pulpit. In the other version of this track, Erica Campbell contributes vocals. Unlike the Toni Braxton cut for Live Out Your Love, I prefer the solo track here as I don't feel like her additions elevate the track much.

The last track I want to call out is Friend Today. Kem's exploration of the political landscape on the album, he has a way of commenting on things like no one else does. He touches on the hardship and puts such heart into it, but it doesn't feel as aggressive and in your face as some of the other artists recent takes on this domain. This track showcases Kem in a slowed down style, and it gives me a lot of feelings of Tony Rich in the delivery.

Overall, Kem is a reliable source for classic R&B music. His styles go a bit older than our normal 90s R&B tastes, but he does it with such effectiveness, that it's worth a listen for all fans of the genre. Every track is different, and they're all worth a listen.

Favorite tracks: Love Always Wins, Live Out Your Love, Friend Today, Can't Stop Giving Love

tl;dr: Kem puts on a masterclass of seventies and eighties R&B. His ability to tackle so many styles and pay tribute to the classics while also keeping it fresh is incredible. A great album that's well worth a listen.