When we first met Trey Songz, he was rocking baggy, light wash denim, pristinely white Air Force Ones to match his crisp wifebeater, an icy cross chain and eight perfectly parted cornrows. He was also a fresh-faced 21-year-old from Petersburg, Virginia, praying to make it in the music industry with his soulful vocals and thug appeal.
Six albums, three Grammy nominations, two albums debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and 12 years later, his star power has been permanently stamped in the history books among his own influences like Usher and R. Kelly, thanks to his melodic girth and seamless ability to blend hip-hop with emotive tunes that revolve around the ladies.
Today, Songz has experienced a fruitful career, shining in notoriety with a few soft spoken, love-induced bumps, bruises and rumors along the way. But for his highly-anticipated seventh offering, Tremaine the Album, the 32-year-old is sonically an open book of sorts like we’ve never experienced before.
“I been stressed out / I ain’t feeling my best / All they want is my sex,” he vulnerably croons on the album’s opener, “The Prelude.” Distinctly different from his usual hypersexual narrative (read: “I Invented Sex,” “Love Faces,” “Panty Droppa”), the 15-track LP slips into a trance-like slow groove that’s heavy on self reflection. “Come Over” tears a page out of his life where sacrifice and change plague his mind: “Told her she can holla when she need me / I know that I’ve never made it easy / I compromise a lot just to make it here / I’m scared to fall in love if we facing fear.”
“Playboy” is another page turner that delves even deeper into his psyche and puts his thoughts in layman's terms: “Don't know why I'm still kissing girls that I don't love / Still stumbling out of these clubs / Still, I'm just so hard to trust / Don't know why I'm still a playboy.” The Rico Love-, Earl & E- and D-Town-produced track puts Trey’s fast-paced life into crystal clear perspective, ultimately making the realization that while he has the desire to settle down, he can’t help but to answer the temptation knocking at his door from sun up to sundown.
Lifting the mood and flaunting his versatility, Tremaine also boasts mid-tempo jams with bumping bass lines like “Nobody Else But You” and “She Lovin It” that are centered around his appreciation of the ladies and breakups and makeups. After tiptoeing around his libido, Trey sheds all inhibitions and goes into full savage mode on the appropriately titled “Animal,” where he vows to “turn the bed into a jungle.” It’s the type of single that’s bound to move hips and asses in the club this summer with its trap-influenced beat.
And as expected, Trey was sure to sprinkle in a babymaking tune. “I make your body pour, f**k up the sheets / Pick you right off the floor, when we f**k up the sheets / I get it wetter every time, f**k up the sheets,” he sings while making explicit references to his stroke game in a silken falsetto on “The Sheets...Still.”
There’s a pleasant surprise on “1x1,” in which Crystal Waters’s “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” is flipped, all while Trey continues to satisfy cravings in the bedroom. “It's 3 a.m., I'm back for more / Just two of us / Sets of clothes fall to the floor / One by one, one by one,” he sings unbothered, adding laughs as ad-libs to further prove his point. Guess old habits die hard.
It’s tough to say if and when Tremaine will follow through with the traditional pipe dream of a monogamous relationship and gifting his mother with a grandchild. But if one thing’s for sure, it’s that he’s conflicted. But “Break From Love," the album’s cinematic closer, feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. Waxing poetically about broken promises, loves first-degree burns and losing faith, Trey takes an optimistic stance on a broken relationship he wants to repair into utopia, offering, “I don't want a break, I don't want a break from us / I don't want to break, I don't want to break from love.”
As much as the album feels like a bit of rebellion from Trigga – the reckless R&B playboy we’ve grown to adore – his honesty and maturity has made for one of the year’s best scores, showcasing not only what it means but what it feels like to evolve. Everyone, meet Tremaine.
(Photo: Atlantic Records)