Music Review: Chrisette Michele releases gutsy 3rd album

Chrisette Michele, “Let Freedom Reign” (Def Jam Recordings)

Chrisette Michele has never been a run-of-the-mill R&B singer, and the Grammy Award-winner pulls even further away from the pack with the gutsy “Let Freedom Reign.”

Now on her third disc, Michele bends her vintage vocals to take on love, loss and headier topics — and she raps too.

“Oh American citizen/ come collect your freedom/ no matter what you’re living in/ no more giving in,” sings Michele on the title track. She also drops this rap verse: “Keep us in the four walls of our church we’ll be quiet/ Most of us ain’t even Democratic or Republican/ and by coincidence/ we love the elected/ until they’re detected of being human.”

The track also features Talib Kweli and Black Thought and fits right in with edgy anthem “I’m a Star” and the self-empowerment track “Number One.”

But Michele also reveals vulnerability, singing over machine sounds, chimes and harps on “So In Love” featuring Rick Ross.

She recaptures the classic, piano-driven sound that drew fans to her 2007 debut with the grand “I Don’t Know Why, But I Do,” written by John Legend and Jazmine Sullivan, and brings her elegance to “I Know Nothing,” and to a smattering of sweet interludes that range from thoughtful to funny.

“Let Freedom Reign” shows an incredible balance in both its content and in the way it contrasts Michele’s demure vocals with a bold sound.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Michele imagines a life in and out of the spotlight, singing over melancholy piano and cello on the beautiful “If Nobody Sang Along.”

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