Heather Headley: This is Who I am Review

I first heard of Heather Headley from a website (which one I can no longer recall) in which it was stating that she was the next big thing and had won a bunch of online awards. I took a quick listen and didn’t feel like paying attention and quickly forgot her. Well, I probably shouldn’t have done that, she’s deserving of whatever awards she received. Not only has she received net awards, but she was honored with a Tony (by no means a small accomplishment) for her role as Nala in Disney’s Broadway show “Lion King”. Originally from Trinidad, Heather came to America when she was 15 in a move to Fort Wayne, Indiana, she is much more accustomed to live performances than a recording studio but as you will soon see, it came out quite nicely.

“this is who i am.” opens with “He Is”, a very bluesy soul-filled rendition of Ms. Headley’s love of another, most would assume she is speaking of a man, but deeper inspection should reveal she is possibly speaking about God. A pretty amazing song with great insight and high love. “Nature Of A Man” is a pretty simple song in concept and musically is not complex either, yet it’s simply pleasing since it involves a beautiful voice.

“Fallin’ For You” was co-wrote by Heather, and is a very uptempo song with a Pop appeal starring a small reggae rap from Chukki Starr, no, I don’t know who he is either but that doesn’t stop his part from giving the song a fresh breath. The next song received pretty good rotation on BET’s “Midnight Love” and was actually the reason I picked up the CD in the first place, the song I’m speaking of is “I Wish I Wasn’t”. It’s a very slow and gradual song of a heart-worn love attempting to let go of a hard relationship. A pretty brilliant song executed to perfection, the chorus andverses go hand in hand with great transitions and a great bridge to bring it all together, she demonstrates some vocal dexterity that few mainstream Pop princesses possess.

Going back to a bluesy feel she comes with “Fulltime”, which speaks love is a fulltime job and not to be taken lightly. Once again Heather Headley inspires us with a voice of gold bearing fruit with a heavy Toni Braxton-ish tone yet able to flex in another dimension when she takes it up in pitch without losing an ounce of quality. Next is “Like Ya Use To”, a funky uptempo beat heavy laden with percussion and harmonica. A fun beat and a chantable chorus make a good overall addition to the track listing. “Always Been Your Girl” slows the tempo back down with a piano laced true R&B tune. A very beautiful heartbroke song, depth is not an issue here and is heightened with a guitar solo to take you into her world which crumbles and hits you.

“Sunday” is also co-written by our star performer, another uptempo track about easing her mind for a day and get away from the stresses of a relationhip strained by another woman’s intervention. “Four Words From A Heartbreak” slows it up a tad and the title gives a semi-obvious description about the topic. A comforting track and easy to connect with (even for a guy), the overall quality of this song is reminescent of Mariah’s earlier days, an enviable position to be in. A deep message centered track is “Sista Girl”, one of the best messages in an R&B song that I can recall. A funky kind of melody backing the vocals draws you in easily enough to hear what she’s talking about, another decent addition.

“Why Should I Cry” starts slow and still but picks up when the chorus hits, an organ ushers in a love essence soon backed up by bass and finger snaps in the usual kick/snare combination. Another simple and understandable song and easy enough to get into, pleasing to the ear. “If It Wasn’t For Your Love” is a deep moving song orchestrated with strings and a beautiful piano rift, a very gospel-like attitude. Not much of a chorus except for what the title states at the end of each verse, a gorgeous track not lacking depth or complexity, and it does so without ever touching the percussion set. Excellent.

As much as I have enjoyed the album, there’s a problem. The problem is not in her voice by any means, the problem is not lyrically in any conceivable way, the issue is not in her delivery which is superb to say the least, the instrumentation isn’t the problem, since it does exactly what it intends. The problem isn’t the track listing or order. So what is the problem? It’s the intangible. As in, the CD as a whole doesn’t possess it. There are some amazing stand out songs such as “I Wish I Wasn’t” and “If It Wasn’t For Your Love”, and there’s not a single bad song on here. The songs are all good, but for the most part, just good. Not something you’ll be thinking about for ages to come, save any relatable material you connect with (accomplished easily enough). She has that next level “Whitney” ability (not “potential”, we’re talkin’ ability), but it needs to be unleashed through songs that are able to let it come through in a way that will stain your mind with two simple words: Heather Headley. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Track Listing:
01. He Is
02. Nature Of A Man
03. Fallin’ For You
04. I Wish I Wasn’t
05. Fulltime
06. Like Ya Use To
07. Always Been Your Girl
08. Sunday
09. Four Words From A Heartbreak
10. Sista Girl
11. Why Should I Cry
12. If It Wasn’t For Your Love

3.5 out of 5