Leon Bridges has been God’s gift to music for the past three years. The DFW native came to the forefront of modern R&B with his debut Coming Home which blended classic style soul with modern R&B, which left critics and fans in awe of his seamless binding of origin stories, religious connections, and modern love. Since the debut, Leon Bridges has been a featured artist on albums such as Gary Clark Jr.’s Live North America 2016 while also landing some major scores in Hollywood with 2015 Blockbuster, Concussion, and a feature with Lecrae for the 2016 movie, Birth of a Nation. In addition to his film soundtrack work, Bridges has been keeping up a busy touring schedule and began to release new solo work beginning in March of this year.
This new work included “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” and “Bad Bad News” both of which saw Bridges turn to a later R&B sound than any previous work. However, this shift in creative style was in no way a turn for the worst as those tracks only further exemplified how versatile and imaginative Bridges was when making a blueprinted style of music his own. On “Bad Bad News” Bridges combines impeccable style, flow, and rhythm into his craft as Bridges explains his coming to prominence in the world of music and the doubts that others held against the young artist. Not to mention the beautiful blending of jazz instrumentation into the main line and outro of the song. “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” also served as a powerful venture into a divergent genre of music, Bridges’ soaring vocals and delicate chorus in beautiful harmony with the string work that soothes the melody of the song creates an omnipotent ballad about fear of commitment juxtaposed with the fear of losing someone important. Bridges then once again flipped tones on his last single before the album’s release: “Beyond”. “Beyond” took on a more contemporary sound then any previous work, sounding unique in form but somehow familiar as if a classic that had spent a fair run on national radio, but found comfort with stations such as 91.7 KXT. This familiarity isn’t a negative, instead, it proves the value of Bridges music not just to one niche in the modern R&B scene, but rather a sound that all listeners can enjoy.
All in all Bridges’ music has been the blessing modern music has needed as an escape from bubblegum on the radio, empty ditties about sex, or the subversive cesspool of mumble-trap-bangers.
Upon the release of the album, the singles themselves cemented the importance of Good Thing as a necessity in Bridges discography. To be completely honest, any great songs following the three singles were just the cherry on top.
And what a cherry.
Good Thing was filled to the gills with completely original content that broadened the seemingly ever-expanding horizons of talent held by Bridges. The album which begins with two of the previously released singles offers a foreshadowing of the diversity expected throughout the rest of the album. Following the singles come “Shy”, which offers a beautifully sensual serenade that utilizes a mod beat on top of delicate yet intricate string work, and as always, placing Bridges lofty dulcet voice at the heart of the song. The album’s tempo is carried on by the following song, “Beyond”, another previously released single, which bends the flirtatious tone of the previous tune into a more romantic less-lustful piece, giving a marital vibe of permanent love. Succeeding “Beyond”, comes “Forgive You”, an introspective piece that picks apart the emotions and inner turmoil that comes along with giving seemingly everything to someone and not receiving reciprocated feelings, yet not having the ability to give up on the situation despite the logic and reason that pushes them to the curb. Bridges is able to present these ideas musically almost in the same headspace as the meaning of the song, with constant reflection and frustration with the steady beat leading to the brash outburst of the chorus, which helps explain Bridges inability to let go and the thoughtlessness of pursuing desire. “Lions” is a more abstract track as it tackles many issues faced by the living, including the willingness to fight for whats yours, the eradication of evils (including evil love), the inability to be what others want, and the need to persevere despite others making a target of weaknesses. In its deep and complex meaning comes the fragmentary and pulled apart, seemingly stripped of intense production sound. “Lions” is the necessary sore in the album, not that it sounds bad or lacks presentability, quite the opposite, rather it’s a sore in style, elevating the magnetism of the album as a whole.
Bridges begins to close the album with “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” and “You Don’t Know” both of which take on a different vibe than any previous track both on Good Thing or Coming Home: Funk. Although staying tethered to his style, Bridges freely romps in the genre relying heavily on strong baselines and keyboards which aid to give direction to his vocals. Upon these upbeat ditties end comes “Mrs.” and “Georgia to Texas”, both serving as the emotional anchor on Good Thing. “Mrs.” takes a deeper dive into sensuality and primitive human connection, led primarily by mellow drums and short guitar riff, the instrumentals perfectly frame the intimacy of the track. “Georgia to Texas”, the final piece of Good Thing, closes the album with a potent whirlwind that admits to the sacrifices made by Bridges mother and family in his life. My favorite track, featuring jazz instrumentals that capture the rugged yet beautiful lyrics, ends the album on a note of remembrance for the lengths family goes to in order to do what’s in the best interest for the future.
Good Thing is a pungent and compelling collection of work that swings from intimacy to frustration, to inward reflection and love. Although not necessarily a return to form from Coming Home, it serves as a cementation of the grave need for Leon Bridges in today’s music, as it seems no one can preach these celebrations and woes of life with so much grace and style.
Review By Brady Schroeder