“Lip Lock” – Eve

2 stars (out of 5)

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Lip LockEve made the transition from American hip-hop star to first name-only sitcom superstar  somewhere around 2003; ambitious, talented and with an androgynous beauty that sells (a clothing line and perfume) she was on the way to becoming a household name, at least in her native country. Since then though, no new music, although she’s been trying since 2007, a year after her sitcom was cancelled and new material was ‘tested’ (a depressing phrase if ever there was one) and didn’t get the required reaction. Record label problems and personal issues have finally been resolved resulting in “Lip Lock”, Eve’s first album for a decade.

Eve’s two previous albums were built around the tried and tested formula of rapped verses and sung choruses, ably demonstrated on one of her biggest hits “Who’s That Girl”; her assured, effortless rapping far more distinctive and compelling than her just adequate vocal abilities. It’s her rapping that is featured almost exclusively on “Lip Lock”, the bloated list of collaborators usually providing the endless, radio friendly choruses. It’s not a coincidence that the tightest and most impressive track is the Major Lazer indebted “Grind or Die”; it snaps and bleeps and is the essence of Eve. There’s no chorus to speak of, just that hungry, defiant rap; it lasts a little over 2 minutes but is the track that makes the most lasting impact.

There is some fun to be had here with the big and stupid, Swizz Beatz produced “Mama In The Kitchen” featuring Snoop Dogg and Dawn Richard, an artist who truly understands what’s required to be innovative r’n’b star in 2013, which adds colour to the one true attempt, thankfully, at EDM on “Keep Me From You”, sounding so like Calvin Harris that I must check that it’s not on his album. “She Bad Bad” balances hard and soft nicely and the opening track “Eve” makes a snaking, hypnotic use of the word ‘eve’ and is at least a pleasant listen but then you’ve probably not come for that.

The remainder of “Lip Lock” struggles. “Make It Out of This Town” is one of 3 inspirational, ’empowering’ stinkers, the type of which clogged up Nicki Minaj’s debut album (when I say debut I mean the first version of ‘Pink Friday’, there have been 2 further re-issues since – but that’s another story) and typifies the radio friendly (bland) pop r’n’b that along with EDM currently dominates American radio. This one features Cobra Starship on the chorus and Chrisette Michele does the exact same thing on the chorus of the soggy “Never Gone”. “Forgive Me” is a thin, disposable, island- pop Rhianna reject and the crowded and dated “Wanna Be” features, amongst others, a phoned-in and almost unrecognisable Missy Elliott. Pale and stale indeed.

A lot has changed in ten years, not just music but the entire music industry itself. There is a feeling that Eve struggles to understand what her place is now in 2013, there are new female rappers like Angel Haze, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea who feel far more complicated and relevant and, just as importantly, sonically propulsive with the most successful, of course, being the global brand that is Nicki Minaj. “Lip Lock” contains a couple of dancefloor bangers at most and with “Keep Me From You” she could have a sizable hit but, apart from that, there is little here that reasserts Eve’s position in contemporary music; a disappointing, confused return.