“Lover’s Playground,” the title track on Laurone McLendon’s new album, is the kind of song that can either be a mature erotic fantasy or a juvenile mess. Considering the treatment that many tunes in this subgenre of R&B receive, I admit that I worried that I’d be stuck with the latter. That worried me because it would pretty much set the tone for the way McLendon approached the subject of romance on an EP where love songs comprise the entire output.
Fortunately for me – and I believe for music fans lucky enough to hear this EP - McLendon knows something about romance. McLendon essentially employs a childhood playground as an analogy for a romantic adult getaway. The song describes the ultimate fantasy of grown folks who subordinate their desires to address the needs of co-workers, bosses, parents, and in-laws and of course children. Somehow, they manage to finagle some precious time together, and that can feel like recess on the first warm day of spring. The couple’s playground lies in that place where life was simpler and obligations and distractions were a lot fewer.
The scene that McLendon conjures up on “Lover’s Playground” points to the strength of each of the five songs on this EP. McLendon sets up a scenario on each track, and then he delivers the descriptive goods through lyrics that capture the emotions that he is vocalizing. On “Can’t Wait,” McLendon is the traveling musician eagerly anticipating the end of the tour so he can return home to his woman. “Heaven,” in my opinion the strongest of a quintet of very good tracks, describes his desire to transform his lady’s world into paradise.
The singer captures that dual feeling of attraction and insecurity that accompanies seeing someone you are attracted to but not sure how to approach on “Next 2 U.” These days R&B is not known for expressing anything that could be construed as insecurity, but McLendon knows that there some good material in those moments between that first glance across the room and when a guy musters the courage to make the approach. “Next 2 U” places McLendon fully in that moment.
“Your Smile,” with its bouncy and up-tempo baseline and catchy hook, almost sounds like the sequel to “Next 2 U.” You can tell from the title that the singer has found a mutually interested partner. Still, McLendon maintains his humanity and vulnerability even as moves in to spit a little game. “Saw you from across the room/got up off my seat/girl I truly fell for you/tripped over my feet/it was instant/had to make my move/to step to you.”
McLendon harkens back to a time when male vocalists had a firm understanding of what it meant to be a romantic. Music fans who enjoy mature sensuality and honest emotion will find a lot to like in the five song EP, and are likely to be asking for more. Highly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes