Six albums into a nearly 10-year career, Trey Songz has an established formula for Pop stardom that has allowed him to become a brand name performer in urban top-40 music. A consistent hitmaker, three of his now six albums have reached the top five on the Billboard R&B album charts, with his past three (2008’s Ready, 2010’s Passion, Pain and Pleasure, and 2012’s Chapter V) all reaching the top five on Billboard magazine’s overall album charts, too. As well, in an era where everyone decries a lack of album sales, he’s sold roughly 2.5 million copies of his last three releases. However, with the potential for high sales figures dwindling, Trigga, Songz’s sixth album features a simplified, “turnt up” formula for Pop stardom that excels at being commonplace, but not “common,” high-class production for music covering populist topics at play for those for whom wild nights aren’t hooks in songs, but rather a way of life.
One can basically figure out exactly what they’re in for when instead of less salacious fare to start the album, the album instead begins with “Cake,” an ode to cunnilingus wherein Songz compares women to confectionery flavors. “Light-skinned girls” remind him of “red velvet (cake),” “Dark-skinned girls” remind him of “chocolate,” while Caucasian women remind him of “vanilla icing” as a cake topping. While yes, this may appear to be a black mark against the album’s mainstream Pop sensibilities, let’s also remember that T.I. and Iggy Azalea currently have a single on the charts where T.I. refuses to copulate with women who have a “bush down there,” and Iggy wants you to “go 12 rounds with this Million Dollar Baby.” Expecting album-selling kingpin Songz to deviate from what’s moving units is an exercise in futility.
This album, similar to Jodeci’s pop breakout 1995 release, is meant for the show, the after party and the hotel. Both “Foreign” and it’s Justin Bieber-featuring remix advocate for the joys of romancing women coming to America (and visiting nightclubs) in a manner not heard since the days of Jay Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.” “Touchin, Lovin” and “Late Night” are club smashes too, as Nicki Minaj and Juicy J show up and drop eight-bar treatises on the liberating power of the female orgasm and the perils of one-night stands, respectively.
Production here, as well as the quality of Songz’s vocal, may be the showcase features of this album. Dun Deal (of Auto-tune warbler Young Thug’s anthem “Stoner” fame) is behind the boards for “Cake,” while the ubiquitous Mike WiLL Made-It (“Late Night”) and DJ Mustard (2014 top-40 radio winner “Na Na”) make appearances, too. If this album feels boilerplate to club and radio standards, it’s likely due to the fact that the margin for return of investment, profit and error is now smaller than ever for a full album release. Thus, instead of Songz’s last two releases, what was a frank and audacious step on 2009’s Ready (an album that featured the ultra-honest “Successful,” the proto-ratchet “I Invented Sex,” club banger “Say Aah,” and the insipid “LOL :-)” with Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy) instead on Trigga now feels par for the course.
As a vocalist, Songz’s timbre is reminiscent to that of Smokey Robinson if he sang about hair extensions whipping during late night trysts instead of the “Tracks of [His] Tears.” Irrepressibly pleasing, his delivery makes the simplistic and direct tone of his songwriting stand out. “SmartPhones’” hook of “I’m gonna up to her and lie right to her face” is delivered in a falsetto that drains the proclamation of all guilt on Songz, but rather hope that the perpetually cheating crooner is absolved of his wrongdoing. In being able to make the deplorable appear decent and in the case of “All We Do,” truly appealing, Songz’s voice isn’t so much any instrument, but one in line with an arrow in Cupid’s quiver. Direct and to the point, on Trigga he appears to never miss his intended target.
The true champions of the album are “Disrespectful” and “SmartPhones,” as well as “All We Do” and “Y.A.S.” The former two songs fall directly in line with the out-of-control playboy persona that surfaced in 2009 and was an underrated smash. Sounding very similar to 1998 R. Kelly and Sparkle duet “Be Careful,” the ballad (featuring Jhene Aiko’s older sister Mila J) outlines a number of wildly disrespectful acts in a relationship, and two lovers united by their less-than-faithful ways in engaging in said acts. “SmartPhones” is incredible, too, the song dealing with the moment when a man in the midst of sneaking around drunk dials his current mate and he’s caught in his error.
“All We Do” and “Y.A.S.” are similarly founded in a matured version of the creatively unfettered era of Songz’s artistic maturation, but both feel as though they re-cast Songz as more a late ‘70s era storyteller, a lovelorn superman at his finest. “All We Do” is a tale of a orgiastic weekend defined by multiple rounds of “fuck, drink and sleep.” “Y.A.S.” is a story of our superhero too, found guilty of cheating by his drunken mate, and in noting that she is drunk, he woos her back into his home, and they proceed to have make-up sex. These are the types of moments that meet expectations for the assured Pop titan that Songz at this point of his development.
As the soundtrack for when the turn up eventually involves turning down the sheets, Trey Songz has been one of the last decade’s most dependable hit record-making artists. In hearkening back to his roots, he showcases his desire to not slow down for 10 more years. Wild, yet well-delivered songs showcase Songz as a master of a now lyrically unrestrained mainstream R&B standard.