In just a little over three weeks, the world will arrive at the halfway mark in a year that has felt more like seven. Examining 2020 through a musical lens, one of the year’s highlights has by far been the excellence displayed by the many artists throughout the R&B genre. Delivering his album before crossing the year’s halfway mark, Ro James’ Mantic arrives nearly a half-decade after the New York-based crooner entered the genre with his rugged style.
Almost four years to the date of his debut album Eldorado, Ro James’ sophomore album once again places him under a good light within the genre, years after his Grammy-nominated platinum single, “Permission.” Packaged together with 15 songs and help from Masego, Miguel, and Brandy, Mantic exhibits Ro James’ growth while staying true to himself. Dark and raw, the album finds him putting forth his best efforts to preserve the sensual highs of love in his relationships.
Led by a seductive sample of Usher’s “Can U Handle It,” James attempts to convince a woman that true happiness lies with him and not within her relationship on “Last Time.” A candle-lit affair, he graces the woman with roses of excitement and anticipation all in an attempt to allude her to her true self-worth. “About a million things I could do to make you smile,” he sings. “To me the things he ain’t doing, girl, it ain’t right.” Answering a similar question posed on the Usher sample, Ro James ponders if he can handle the current relationship on the Miguel-featured “Too Much” as the lows begin to outweigh the highs. Attempts to be long-lasting partners fall short as they turn out to be nothing more than on-and-off lovers. Calling her the “prescription to my antidote” early in the song, Ro James later admits “They don’t love me like you do, and that’s a fact, girl” while labeling her as “ain’t sh*t” on the song’s chorus.
Two songs later, James colorfully captures the deep-rooted feelings in his relationship on “Rose.” With promises to water their love and keep it from dying, he emphatically promises that “As long as it’s yours and mine / This love ain’t dying.” Giving listeners a track to groove and two-step to, James and Masego switch up the pace on “Slow Down.” As described by Masego in his verse, their partner’s love of Porsches, Lambos, Teslas, and the other speed demons of the world has her racing to love. Accustomed to this fast life, the R&B talents attempt to slow the rush to love and instead to take in and appreciate the true beauties of love. Showcasing the lust he holds within for his partner, James delivers a bedroom magic ballad on “Baby Blue.” Shedding much of the production elsewhere on the album, James turns into the acoustic lane as he lays a tender touch to his partner moments before sparks fly. “Worthy lover, set me free,” he begs. “I’m falling, won’t you rescue me?”
On his latest body of work, Ro James proves that love excels when one caters to their sensual pleasures as well as that of their lovers. Whether a sense of appreciation, lust, or comfort is desired, Ro James provides it with little to no hesitation. Mantic also highlights that despite being four years removed from his debut album, James’ love ballads have yet to lose their authentic and down-to-earth touch.
Mantic portrays Ro James as the man to be with, the problems exhibited on the album rarely come from his end. The puppetmaster to his love life, James is quite often aware of the lacking elements as well as the ones that appear in excess. As a result, he operates in-sync with the desires of his lover all without surrendering his idea of the perfect relationship. Whether it be the nighttime excitement found within the sheets or the daytime thrill found in a drive with the top down, Ro James brings varying examples of these sensual highs to his relationships and preserves them in hopes of a long-lasting love.
Mantic is out now via Bystorm/RCA. Get it here.