You need Java to see this applet.
"Stronger EverYday": Jon B
by Mike Heyliger
Before there was a Justin T., there was a
Jon B. California-based Jonathan Buck was a
rarity in the late 90s. A white dude who
made R&B music...not the pop-flavored R&B
stuff that the boy bands would ride to
success around the same time, but actual
soul music. With a very strong assist from
his once omnipresent mentor, Babyface, Jon
made three pleasant smooth soul albums
before being dropped by Sony in 2001.

Three years later, Jon finally returns with album #4-"Stronger
Everyday". Rescued by Beyonce's daddy and placed on Sanctuary's
new urban imprint, "Stronger" finds Jon not exactly reinventing the
wheel. There's some upbeat club jams, there's the ubiquitous guest
rappers, and there's a smokin' heap of vibey mid-to-slow tempo
songs for the lovers. Jon even recycles former duet partners 'Face
and 2Pac on this album.  

While Jon has historically written and produced most of his work, he
calls out a couple of big guns here. "Hands On U" is a groove-heavy
uptempo jam produced by Mike City that strongly recalls an earlier
City production, "Full Moon" by Brandy. The album's opener,
"Everytime", features a smokin' beat goosed by some live piano
breaks by Jon himself. Just Blaze does a good job on the production
tip, but the song itself is really saved by the presence of the
O.D.-um, Big Baby Je-uh, um...Dirt McGirt. Ol' Dirty spits a hilariously
unhinged (but on point) verse and gives the song some flavor with
his unique vocalizing at the end.  

. "Thru The Fire" is a mournful jam which acheives "certified fire"
status thanks to Scarface, who drops in for 16 bars and leaves with
the entire song. Boasting a gospel feel (mostly due to the Aretha
Franklin sample interspersed throughout the song), Houston's
finest drops a signature dramatic verse. It's the highlight of the
album.

Even 'Pac's guest appearance (grave robbing at it's finest) isn't as
bad as I'd like it to be, cosidering I'm no fan of exploitation of the
dead. "Pt. 2" contains several things the last Jon/Pac collaboration
(on "Are U Still Down"-released literally 2 weeks after Pac's murder)
didn't have-namely a chorus and a melody. Pac drops tight rhymes
here, although I think they were lifted off of a previously released
song.  Babyface shows up on the affable, guitar-based "What I Like
About You", one of the better songs on the album.

"One More Dance" straddles the line between Marvin Gaye's "After
The Dance" and R. Kelly's "Step in the Name of Love", while "I'm
Right Here" is a peppy club jam that you might find yourself jiggling
your glass to at 8 PM before anyone has really gotten to the club.
It's got sort of an Asian motif.. "Az U" is a credible romantic jam
which manages to straddle the borderline between seductive and
crass.

This album is certainly not terrible. It's quite solid, on par with any
of Jon's previous albums. There's certainly no rush to reach over to
the stereo and hit the "stop" button. 'Stronger Everyday" finds Jon
B. adapting to R&B circa 2004 and doing a credible job of it.


Music samples and more at    
www.jonbeyond.com