It's finally here! Count On My Love, the long-awaited major label debut album from Jamaica's songbird Tessanne Chin was released around 11pm (Ja time) on Monday, June 30. I was beyond excited to finally be able to hear the new tracks in full, after she had given us a five-song teaser last week. In fact, I was so impatient that I cancelled my pre-order and purchased the album regularly because I couldn't figure out how to process worked. I'm a little new to iTunes, so you will forgive me.
At first, I was so overjoyed that it was like receiving a gift you've always wanted, but being afraid to even touch it because you don't want to soil it with your grubby little fingers. I eventually decided to jump right in where the singles Tumbling Down and Everything Reminds Me of You left off, and start with the title track.
I was too giddy to attempt to review the album then, because it would have probably looked like this: ASJKEKJDDHKJAKWPPDUJDMLLLQQMNMNHWIMNDLWPWIJDNNSOLWLAP!!!!!!!! OMG!!!! *dies* and that would not have been cute coming from someone who is a decade removed from her teen years. So, after two days of steady listening, here are my thoughts:
Count On My Love (COML) is a solid, assured body of work, featuring Tessanne's signature combination of thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics and beautifully nuanced vocals. As the title suggests, the overall theme is love - revelling in it, fighting to keep it, losing it and moving on. This is certainly a topic we can all relate to and everyone who contributed to the project seemed to have got the memo to keep it emotionally open and accessible. Many of us have been there, suffering or meting out the emotionally hostile, cold-shoulder treatment described in Loudest Silence: "I'm not saying any words but my eyes are cursing you out... In my mind I'm thinking in your mind, you're saying 'go to hell.'" Put in the position where we had to admit "maybe I wasn't meant for you" and take the fall as it all comes Tumbling Down, we then face the torture of dealing with the memories - even chickening out of watching Game of Thrones because it "used to be our show" (Everything Reminds Me of You.) Yes, there's a GOT reference. And txt speak: "I <3 that my <3's the <3 that you choose" (I Heart U). How 2014 is that? Talk about relatable!
When I first heard the snippets during her listening party livestream a few weeks ago, I was sure People Change was going to be my favourite. It is just so tender and emotional and I love songs that make you feel. Bring on the waterworks! As someone who doesn't really let things go, I found myself moved by the lines "I said I wouldn't forgive you but here I am, wishing you well now that I understand. My biggest fear was to lose you and I did in the end. But I'm alright, you're alright, we're alright."
However, I've found myself drawn to One Step Closer, which closes the album and is the only song not about relational love. You can say it is about loving what you do and celebrating the joy of making progress. The reggae/EDM/dubstep beat came clear out of left field for me and had me behaving like a nut. Tessanne expertly rides the rhythm and handles the changes like a pro, declaring that she's "ready to take aim and fire... winning cuz I worked so hard." I can't wait to see her perform this live, because I know it's going to be bananas. Betta "ring di alarm" yes, Tess! And while we're on the topic of empowerment, Always Tomorrow assures us that we're "one of a kind but never alone." I can see it being used in a national campaign, especially geared towards uplifting children. Get on that, Youth Minister Lisa Hanna.
Having watched the reactions rolling in on Twitter, I'd say most people's favourite is Heaven Knows, and I can see why. I've already talked about the relatable lyrics, but get into that beat! Tessanne's heart isn't the only thing going "boom ba boom" in this tune, as the drums just make you want to get down and dance.
Sonically, COML is a bit of a departure from what longtime fans will be used to. There is no rock, but she has not strayed too far from her reggae roots, even dropping in some deejay lines for good measure. She has given us a true island pop album with touches of R&B, rounding it all out with EDM and dubstep to further show us why she cannot be stuffed into a genre box. I'll give COML 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Now for my rant.
I was extra hyped to see the album surge up the iTunes charts, reaching as high as #3 on the Pop chart and #6 on the overall chart. All of this with PRACTICALLY NO PROMOTIONAL ASSISTANCE from her wutliss label, Republic Records. I know they have 'bigger stars' like Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Jesse J, Taylor Swift (and her new cat) and Lorde to cater to, but come on! I'm no music industry expert, but I'm sure her team can do better in terms of generating more interest and sales. The Voice Tour she's currently on is good, but it is also a bit of a hindrance as she probably doesn't have the freedom to fly all over the States for TV interviews. But what about sending out the singles to radio stations? What about setting up some radio interviews where she can call in? Or TV interviews in the cities where the show stops? Or is Republic's contract with The Voice only good for producing the album but you have to do the rest all by your lonesome? Thank God for social media and a corps of dedicated fans who pushed and pushed, trying to get her trending and routinely poking the bear (Republic) to get one tweet every week or so. Jeez Louise.
I hope when the numbers come in they are strong enough to convince her hapless or heartless team to do more, because COML is a great starting place for Tessanne to launch the kind of international career that she deserves. Otherwise, I'm sure it won't take long for her to move on and find a team that will recognise what a treasure she is and treat her with the respect she's due.