So this month’s Old School Moment comes in the form of what many critics referred to as a “sophomore slump” album. I sometimes feel I’m one of the few people on this planet that still listens to this album on a normal basis. Released in June of 1998, Maxwell had the hardest task of following up a practically flawless debut album. “Urban Hang Suite” was a modern marvel of soul. It helped to reshape soul music alongside D’Angelo and Erykah Badu’s debut albums. There was almost no way he could succeed in following it up. So what did he do? He went completely left. Like…all the way left.
“Embrya”, while staying true to his original soundscapes, was completely experimental in terms of song structure and concepts. The first song on the album “Everwanting: To Want You to Want”, named is one of my favorite songs from him, period. It’s almost my theme music for when I go out to a club or something. I promise you, if I have to go somewhere that even requires semi-formal wear, that song is playing while I’m getting ready. I leave my apartment feeling like some kind of seductive super-hero that no female, lesbians included can resist.
With the first visual for this album, we knew he would be on some different shit. He crawled around on the floor in the video for “Til the Cops Come Knockin”, and in the first single for “Embrya”, he was in the tub. Yep. Soapy and happy as hell, singing in the tub. I can’t even post the video for “Luxury: Cococure” because it would be a borderline Man Law Violation. The song itself is a good song, but yeah…you way too happy to be takin’ a bubble bath bro.
So let’s take a look at the second visual, less offensive offering…
I love that video!
I have to admit, I was with the rest of the world when the album came out. I slept on it for some time because it just wasn’t “Urban Hang”. But as I got older and my musical taste expanded, I grew to love this project. He had his jams on it like the aforementioned songs. He had the bittersweet, creeper of a song “Know These Things: Shouldn’t You”, which is a melancholy masterpiece that oozes vulnerability. This album also yielded some good, sexy joints like “Gravity: Pushing to Pull” and the promise of pregnancy that is “Submerge: Til We Become The Sun”.
In 2011, during his “VH1 Storytellers” special, Maxwell mentioned the “Embrya” album and even he questioned his decision on doing the record. In time, I just had to accept the album for what it was, which was an experiment in soul, trying to offer some different concepts and perspectives. Sure, it’s probably his “worst” release, but in my opinion, it’s nowhere near a bad release. If you bought the album back then and use it as a coaster ’til this day, wipe it off and try it again, you may be surprised at the gems you find.