Friday, September 25th, 2009

Ryan Leslie – You’re Not My Girl

Artist. Producer. Entrepreneur. CEO. Plus actor…


Frank Kogan: Goofy bass funk in the style of the early ’80s, staged with minimal scenery, printed on overexposed film. The result is a bit spooky, like telephone poles looming out from the fog. The story itself is uneasy, a clandestine affair that’s never quite sure of its boundaries.

Alex Ostroff: Ryan Leslie is the yin to The-Dream’s yang: where Love vs Money created lush, maximalist FutureSex/SoundScapes, Ryan Leslie remained indebted to R&B’s traditional influences even as it pushed its production in stark and sparse directions. In other words, he’s the Pharrell to The-Dream’s Timbaland. Never has this been more clear than “You’re Not My Girl”, a sleek little nugget of bouncing basslines and funk guitar that sounds like a lost track from the Neptunes’ Justified sessions. The clincher is Leslie’s seductive and conflicted kiss-off, delivered to a woman he isn’t allowed to have but can’t stay away from. “You’re Not My Girl”: The song that launched a thousand R-Les/Cassie/Diddy fanfics.

Al Shipley: Clearly it’s The-Dream’s moment right now, but the other chinless R&B auteur threatening to drop a 2nd album this year is working hard to play catch up. This may not be as immediate and undeniable as “Diamond Girl”, but it’s got a killer groove and low key charm I’ll come back to regardless of whether it actually hits.

Michaelangelo Matos: It really kicks in when you listen close how tricky the structure is, how buoyant the percussive arrangement is, how perfectly it recapitulates early-’80s R&B while sounding squarely now. But the fact that you have to listen close to catch all that says something too.

Jonathan Bradley: Disco doesn’t work if it’s this flaccid or hookless. Within the realm of pop-R&B, this is nearly as unforgivably unimaginative as Kings of Leon are in theirs.

Chuck Eddy: I detect echoes of early ’80s post-Chic pop-funk in the chimey bounce, and in Leslie’s singing here — which reminds me of old Brits like Imagination (and maybe Junior) in its higher register and old Americans like Ray Parker Jr. in its lower. There’s a jazziness to his technique that I respond to, and I like how he punctuates by taking little breaths — basically a Michael Jackson tic, I guess, and by now maybe a Justin Timberlake tic. Still not connecting emotionally, though; wonder why. Maybe it’s the songwriting?

Martin Kavka: In both its vocal and production, “You’re Not My Girl” is neither offensive nor exciting. If Michael Jackson were to have lived to make another failed comeback album, this would have been its fourth single.

Pete Baran: There is a boldness to the upfront bassline which is really refreshing, so it’s all a bit of a shame that its repetition is all there is to the song. By the time it’s being played on the “coconut shells” setting on the synth, I got a bit sick of it.

Anthony Miccio: Classicist R&B is conservative by nature, but this is harder synth-funk than homage dictates, giving the track an immediacy that more than makes up for the smooth anonymity of the vocals.

John Seroff: Leslie sounds like a mellow John Legend channelling The Whispers, the funk bassline sounds like a lax “Another One Bites the Dust”, the drums sound like “Billie Jean”, the second half of the song sounds exactly like the first half. There’s nothing exactly wrong with “You’re Not My Girl”, but neither is there anything exactly right; it’s a perfectly enjoyable light soul strutter but it just don’t ELEVATE. It’s a shame the cavalry never comes, ’cause the foundation is strong, just not thick.

6 Responses to “Ryan Leslie – You’re Not My Girl”

  1. “it’s a perfectly enjoyable light soul strutter but it just don’t ELEVATE”

    That’s sort of what I like about it. What charms me with Ryan Leslie’s solo stuff is that a song like this can be a lead single. It’s so low-key and unassuming, but you know every track on the album will be at least as good. His enourmously sympathetic character really comes through the music for me, he’s slick, smooth, playful just at the right moments. I love his debut and I imagine I’ll love this one as well, even though he’ll never end up spearheading his own hit.

  2. Nice Garth Marenghi reference, Will.

  3. “chinless r&b auteur” <3

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  5. This really does feel like a lost cut from Justified. Good calls Alex O and Chuck.

  6. this grew on me when I didn’t think it would. Probably more of a 7.