November 17, 2005

Floetry: Flo'Ology

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I’m not going to lie: Floetry’s new album, Flo’Ology is intensely outside my own personal musical interests. But in the name of journalistic integrity, I forced myself to look at Flo’Ology with a professional and subjective eye. However, before I even slipped on my pristine white headphones, I was forced to come to a grim conclusion: Floetry is perhaps the worst music name of all time. Even more painful is the fact that the women of Floetry, Marsha Ambrosius (aka “Songstress”) and Natalie Stewart (aka “Floacist”), seem to think that this gimmick is clever and merits repetition (their albums are titled Flo’Ology and Floetic)!

It took me a minute to understand the pun at work here, and when I figured it out, “Floetry” seemed no more than a strained attempt at street-wise lyricism (Flow + Poetry = Floetry. Get it?? Making their poetry flow!). Despite their propensity for pun-laden song titles, the gimmick gets tired fast, much like their newfound bedroom approach to neo-soul. Even worse, Floetry insists on employing the most insanely annoying habit of songwriting: replacing real words like “you” and “to” with their single letter (“u”) or number (“2”) counterparts. This adolescent approach more accurately resembles a pseudo-erotic conversation between pimply adolescents, rather than a mature, polished expression of two sophisticated women. Unfortunately, these childish and cliched attempts at song titles (“I Want U” and “Blessed 2 Have”) automatically demean their admirable intentions and undermine their obvious intelligence.

It seems like a small thing to harp on, but maybe succumbing to the R&B stereotype of purposefully misspelling words (Ludacris, Xzibit et al) in the name of street credibility (something I will never understand), will garner them the kind of mass audience and mainstream exposure they’ve sorely missed. But why must Floetry do it at the cost of their musical integrity? Either way, Floetry will never be able to penetrate into the pop culture consciousness like our crossover R&B queen Mary J. Blige. Floetry doesn’t come close to the undeniable, sweaty sexiness of D’Angelo, even though they make many valiant attempts with their sexy coos and bedroom come-ons (“Lay Down”). Floetry also fails at achieving the exuberance of fellow neo-soul revelers India.aire or Musiq (Soulchild), although Floetry comes close with the infectious, bouncy “My Apology.” Floetry’s own calling card was their penchant for intelligent, soulful songwriting, but even that has degenerated into trite cliches and pickup lines. Instead of sounding contemporary, much of Flo’Ology sounds like a tossed b-side from an old Allure album, a girl group that unsurprisingly faded into obscurity after the public realized there was absolutely nothing remarkable about their music.

On their 2002 debut album Floetic, Floetry presented a successful merging of the disparate singing styles of sultry R&B crooner Songstress and rapper Floacist. However, this time around the dual voices of Floetry rarely come together in harmony or coherence, and Songstress’s robust contributions are far more vital than Floacist’s unintelligible whisperings (aka “spoken word”). This disjuncture between the two women’s vocals creates an album of mostly ambient filler, halfheartedly bolstered by a handful of semi-danceable tracks.

Floetry attempts to jazz up their predictable R&B foundation with funky bossa-nova percussion (“I Want U”) or neo-soul piano scales (“Blessed 2 Have”), but the lack of a motivated song structure made me listless and bored. The echoing bass line of “Imagination” is genuinely sexy, but the formulaic “oohs” and “ahhs” are buzzkill. Not even the marquee name of feel-good rapper Common on “SupaStar” can save Flo’Ology from stagnancy.

The neo-soul groove of “My Apology” is the single song on Flo’Ology that is truly danceable. The funky, jagged beat and a catchy chorus are promising, but the proliferation of spoken word (not quite rapping, not quite background noise) in lieu of a proper verse left me focusing instead on the nebulous chasm between Songstress and Floacist.

Because so many of the tracks on Flo’Ology channel the exact same bedroom vibe, everything blurs into a wholly lackluster album. Multiple times I wondered why two talented women would stoop to write middle-school love poems, as in “Sometimes U Make Me Smile:” “I’m torn by misdirection / You’re my ambassador / You personify my admiration.” For some unknown reason, Floetry has decided to almost entirely forgo their funk-meets-neo-soul party jams like “Floetic” in favor of slower, interminably boring “jams” like “Lay Down” (also rife with embarrassing songwriting: “Let’s just lay down / I wanna just love you in this special way,” Songstress proclaims).

Flo’Ology is music for a dinner party held in an elevator, or perhaps piped in as background music through the sound system at your local Express or Banana Republic. Soothing to the point of sedation, Flo’Ology is completely inoffensive neo-funk-soul for the older, decidedly un-hip Michael Bolton/Kenny G folks. And, contrary to the intentions of Floetry, unless you plan on passing out stone cold in your lover’s arms, this critic would most definitely not recommend playing it in the boudoir.

Archived article by Natasha Pickowicz
Sun Staff Writer