“Crooked Smile” will be much harder to categorize than J. Cole’s previous single, “Power Trip.” The ingredients are there for this one to be called another crossover attempt – light keys, the R&B feature, the “love thy self” lyrics. But those same ingredients make it hard to find displeasure with the tune.
This isn’t the average R&B feature; it’s TLC. When was the last time music fans heard them on a rap record? (I’ll wait) And then there are the lyrics, which definitely are borderline rap-pop; however, there’s an earnest in Cole’s bars as he critiques his physical features, his transition to fame and how he no longer has to take a deep breath before checking his bank account. The cut’s essentially his message saying “Good or bad, this is the way God made me and I embrace it,” a message that hopefully won’t fall on deaf ears.
Is the song perfect? Nope, but neither is Cole or are we, which is all the more reason to accept it as is. And I guess we’ll see how the piece fits into the puzzle as a whole when Born Sinner drops in two weeks.