Trey Songz sixth album brings the hits but leaves the substance at home.
The average man thinks about sex between one and 388 times per day; Trey Songz isn’t your average man. In his nine years of making music, the twenty-nine-year-old has made it abundantly clear that sex is pretty much all he thinks about. One might even say he invented it. In a way, Songz's one-dimensionality is a gift and curse. On one hand, when you’re recording the same song for almost a decade, you’re bound to perfect the formula; and a perfect formula is the recipe for success. On the other hand, it’s certainly a bit limiting, isn’t it?
Trigga opens appropriately with “Cake.” Produced by Dun Deal (of Young Thug’s “Stoner” fame), the track is fairly representative of what the rest of the project has in store: thinly veiled references to various sex positions from the point of view of an egomaniac. Ironically, the line “I don’t wanna play by the book, no rules” is exactly what he does right from track one, for better or worse.
Now, no one can blame Songz for sticking to his guns; every song on Trigga is a musically inoffensive affair with mass radio-potential. If you’re looking for easily digestible pop music, this is the album for you. The problem is, by sticking so closely to what he knows the masses will buy into, Songz forgoes any opportunity to really grow as an artist. I’m not sure that anyone could confidently say that they learned anything new about Trigga at any point during the album’s 70 minutes--a shame considering he advertised the release as his most personal to date. There’s bound to be a crowd of listeners who will respond to this criticism by saying, “Trigga’s a sex record! Who gives a fuck if it’s personal?” It’s a fair point, but it’s also an argument built on the fallacy that a sex is a thoughtless (read: impersonal) endeavor.
To hear Trigga done right, look no further than The-Dream’s extremely underrated Love vs. Money. Dream doesn’t have the vocal capabilities that Songz does—not even close—but what he does have is an undeniable knack for crafting compelling music. A masterpiece of contemporary R&B, Dream’s sophomore album draws from the same R. Kelly-inspired formula that Songz does and turns it into a thematically compelling R&B opera filled with infectious hooks and—here’s the important part—conflict.
Conflict drives story; story drives compelling music; compelling music drives classic albums. Whereas Songz is perfectly content with making “I can fuck ‘em all the time, but I swear I’ll never wife ‘em” his music’s thesis statement, Dream does the same while simultaneously questioning his ways and, more times than not ("Love vs. Money Pt. 2"), regretting his choices. I won’t delve too deep into Love vs. Money considering this is a review of Trigga, but it’s necessary to draw a parallel between the two to illustrate where Songz's latest effort is lacking. Both projects take inspiration from the same source (R. Kelly) but only one understands what makes Kelly a legend: under the sex symbol, there's a real person. Trigga lumps its most dimensional tracks in the album's third act ("Y.A.S." being the highlight of the bunch); but it's too little, too late.
At the end of the day, Trigga is a strong compilation of hit singles competently produced and written for mass impact. Songz has the appeal and the vocal chords to make even the lamest of hooks (see "Na Na") sound like a smash. The downside is that hit singles don't make "great" albums--compelling music does. Like a one-night-stand, Trigga is exciting today but probably won't be remembered next year. Trey has the talent to make his R., but he’ll have to change his direction to get there. “Ignition” made R. Kelly money; “I Believe I Can Fly” made him an icon. Trey has yet to record his “I Believe I Can Fly.”