Teedra Moses, ‘Cognac & Conversation’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Teedra Moses asserts that both love and sex are a journey not to be taken too seriously. The singer's sophomore album, Cognac & Conversation, is proof of that. Based on title alone, she sets the tone for a mature, indulgent experience. Grab a glass and sit back because she has a story to tell.
More than a decade has passed since she released her debut LP and before her second arrived this summer, Moses has often been given the tagline of an underrated singer. Has she truly been eschewed by the mainstream, who prefer brasher vocals and pop appeal or is she an acquired taste? Her voice is sweet in an unimposing way -- something like Tamia. On Cognac & Conversation, she showcases versatility, expressing her love for the Lord and cussing out a dude who did her dirty all in the same breath.
This album plays out like a musical and Moses plays the seasoned lead. Each song illustrates a different scene of her life, from young and naive infatuation to the unexpected blessing of her twin sons 20 years ago. The upbeat tracks express her triumphs while others are asides where she stands alone on stage, introspective, reflecting about more fearful moments that she recalls but doesn’t regret.
She's stingy with features on Cognac & Conversation for good reason. The New Orleans native is certain of what she wants and her energy takes over many of these tracks. The standouts are mature, showing Moses’ age and experience in the game. Her first single, “All I Want” featuring Rick Ross, puts a kicky spin on a relationship wrecked by superficial expressions of love. It's 2015: the only type of women who can be bought are not worth having, she proves.
On “Only U,” featuring rapper 3D Na’tee -- a female rapper from New Orleans -- Moses describes how difficult it is to start fresh in a healthy relationship without carrying over baggage from a previous heartbreak. Like the few other tracks that include features, her bars fit, instilling the confidence of a boss. "You a king but to reach your dream you're going to need Coretta," spits Na'tee.
Production on this album is strategic, Moses told The Boombox while she was still in the studio. Big names were not her priority; she was more concerned with cohesiveness and originality (“I want my own sound"). Thaddeus Dixon and Donald Whittmore, for example, provided her with beats that she felt complimented her motifs on the album -- sensuality and strength.
Moses puts a spotlight on her relationship battles of the past with songs like “Beautiful Chaos”, drawing on Whittmore’s beat to conjure up the charm and cadence of early 2000s R&B. “Skin Diver,” as one would imagine by the title is just plain freaky -- a “Backstroke” 2.0 of sorts. An affectionate respite from her more emotional tracks, it dwells on the simple pleasure of discovering a lover’s beautiful body, one inch at a time.
The right recording chemistry pushed Moses to bring Rick Ross back for the title track, a song about a deep, passionate connection with someone who brings something real to the table. While the song is compelling, the singer's vulnerability shows more on tracks such as “That One” featuring Anthony Hamilton.
Watch Teedra Moses' "That One" Video Feat. Anthony Hamilton
In a departure from the norm, Hamilton sounds youthful and almost lighthearted on "That One", a song about the vast difference between lust and devotion. While still soulful, Hamilton lets Moses lead on this track -- not an easy feat with a voice as ripe with emotion as his. A campaign for her cause, Moses breaks down the reasons why she’s a keeper. “If you can love me through by crazy emotional moods, I’ll be the one to hold you down when those other hoes leave you lonely,” she promises. Fair enough.
The four a cappella interludes on Cognac & Conversation function well as seamless transitions from one “scene” to the next, showcasing her range -- both vocally and emotionally. The most powerful one, called “Wish You Were Here” sounds like caramel but bites hard, describing how a former love now wants to be a part of the paradise she’s created for herself. “When you had me you turned me away / I really don’t give a s--- about nothing you have to say,” she sings.
Moses’ most endearing moments on this album are when she ever so gracefully gives relationship toxins two middle fingers, highlighting her own growing pains without judgment. The closing track slows it all down and moves gently into reconciliation. “No Regrets” -- about the birth of her sons -- is a poignant because of its composition primarily. The beats on most tracks fight for attention on the album but this song relies on her timbre, honesty and a little guitar.
Cognac & Conversation is tattletale. While Moses has been living in California for her adult life, her content and inflection reveal a New Orleans girl at heart: family oriented, passionate about music and sweet until compelled to unleash a slick tongue. And then heaven help you. The album is calculated and comprehensive, recapping Moses’ fan base on what she’s been up to for the past 11 years. In her musical, she overcomes obstacles, triumphs at the end and never seems to lose herself along the way.
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