There is something going on with Joe Lington‘s Focus that, while being the stuff of the modern age, builds a bridge with past, conscious soul and funk artists. A bridge built on the solid ground of the musical style and reputation of the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, and Marvin Gaye. He has the same progressive attitude towards mixing, matching, and melding music, deftly stepping from one genre to another, soul to rock, pop to dance to funk, and more modern urban and clubland vibes. It’s all in there. Add to that his ability to sing songs in three languages and his desire to talk about pressing issues (sadly the same ones that those earlier pioneers were warning us of in their day), and you have a genuinely cross-cultural, genre-hopping, geographically fluid, socially conscious album.
Focus (LP) - Joe Lington (R&B) This month we’ve had the pleasure to explore the discography of French R&B artist Joe Lington, and today we take on the remaining projects, the “Focus” LP. Released in 2021, the album shares commonalities with his other offerings—the prior “Trust” LP, subsequent “Black Desire” LP and the “WTPA” EP preceding the forthcoming “Pinkeen” LP—to the point that we now believe we can confidently say that we understand the Joe Lington formula. Let’s break that equation down below. As we’ve often noted in our reviews of Joe’s work, Joe likes to serve a comprehensive and meticulously structured work. Aside from general sequencing choices, Joe likes to use introductions and interludes to separate his projects into acts, a technique that we don’t see used very often these days now that the music scene is far more a culture of singles rather than one that focuses on album releases. It’s a refreshing throwback, and “Focus” is no different, with the title track being the intro to the album that reminds us a lot of the beginning of Usher’s “Monstar”, coincidentally also an intro track. Track “Maman” also gets its own introduction later in the project, “Alone” helps guide us from uptempo to ballad around the halfway mark and “I wanna Be” is a transition track as well that feels akin to Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” complete with the falsetto. We kind of want a full song of the latter. Also part of Joe’s formula is showing off his bilingual skills, which is also present on “Focus”, getting to reach two audiences in one project. Shrewd business move for sure. In addition, Joe also likes to use spoken word in order to deliver specific messages to his audience directly. In “Black Desire”, the title track explained the necessity of code switching. On “Focus”, the spoken word follows the intro number, with “Are You Ready?” letting us know this album is about the love of music. And then the final ingredient, of course, that punchy 00s R&B sound. On “Focus” our standout tracks include “You & Me”, whose guitar strums take us back to Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” and also give us a resonant baritone feature with guest artist frederic. “Call Me Maybe”—no, not that one—also stands out as an upbeat number with touches of jazz influence, from a wailing sax to a jazz piano, baked into a tight percussion with added tension of house infused synths. Of the slow jams, “Partir” is probably our favorite, with a lilting melody, luscious vocal stacks and a seductive quiet storm instrumental. It’s been quite a journey with Joe Lington this month and we look forward to linking up with him again in 2024 for the forthcoming “Pinkeen” album. What we've discovered so far is an artist with a dedication to his craft, a focus on his specific sound, and a robust vision of comprehensive works. With a deep discography, we think it might be time for the "Pinkeen" project to take Joe on tour. We'd certainly love to hear many of these live and see what Joe has to bring to the stage.