Don’t be fooled by the nose ring on the cover of Joss Stone’s fifth studio release, LP1. There’s nothing remotely rebellious about the soulful singer’s new album. All the rebellion of the British neo-soul niche seems to have passed along with Amy Winehouse. That’s not to say there’s no life left in the movement. Adele’s taken up the bluesy mantle with the explosive success of 21 and Joss Stone’s latest proves she’s still in the game, with a pleasant string of stirring tracks still in time for summer.
Since her debut in 2003, Stone has proven herself capable of vocals on a par with Beyonce and even her evident influences, Janis Joplin and the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Her voice is powerful, evocative and on tracks like the ballad, “Last One to Know,” emotionally raw. But, her impressive vocal ability tends to be easily overshadowed by overwrought production or, perhaps even worse, diluted by lackluster instrumentation. And, with lyrics that are equally sub-par (“treat this day like a newborn baby”), LP1 becomes nothing more than an agreeable mixed bag of R&B ballads and soulful sass.
It seems Stone hasn’t quite gotten her footing since her split from EMI in 2009. Since teaming up with a new record label, Stone’d, the name implies a more relaxed, freer and independent environment with increased creative control. Unfortunately, what emerges is perhaps the least dynamic of Stone’s work. While the more upbeat songs, like “Don’t Start Lying to Me Now” with its cheerful hand-clapping and empowering attitude, and some of the slower jams are satisfying, they’re lacking in any real energy. If LP1 is Joss Stone’s independent breakthrough, it’s about as radical as her humdrum nose ring.