“There’s only two things in life that are constant. That’s change and change.” Lyfe Jennings says at the beginning of “Never Never Land,” the fourth track on his third album, “Lyfe Change.” What is unclear is if even Lyfe really believes his own intro. “Lyfe Change” is a departure neither in content nor delivery from his last two offerings and there often isn’t even much change from track to track.
The tracks are so homogenously produced, keeping pretty much identical rhythm and beat structure throughout the entire album, that it almost seems as though Lyfe entered into some kind of bet about how many albums he could sell with a grand total of three different beats.
To his credit, Lyfe’s voice is his own throughout the album. Unlike T-Pain, who could be legitimately anyone put through whatever vocal-modulation monstrosity he calls a production team, Lyfe’s voice is remarkably honest and authentic. That being said, he is at his best when he switches modes from quiet and speculative to the more swaggering persona embodied on “Brand New” and “Old School.” It is also worth noting that those are two of the three tracks on the album that feature rappers, and they serve as a welcome respite from the monotony of hearing Lyfe’s voice to the exclusion of all others on the rest of the album.
“Brand New,” one of the album’s many love letters from Lyfe to one of his many women, benefits tangibly from the addition of T.I. and a change in production to something reminiscent of the shimmer of 1970s Motown. The track itself is a bit of a throwback to that same era, invoking the style of Marvin Gaye and Al Green as Lyfe and T.I. talk about how their girls will be around throughout their lives. The expression of absolute monogamy is somewhat of an oddity considering the current climate of R&B. Look just as far as “I’m in Love with a Stripper” or, for that matter, the life of any famous musician ever, to find just how out of place it is for T.I. and Lyfe to declare their love to just one woman. It seems to strive for something beyond a baby mama or (as Stephon Marbury once put it) “better ho,” and manages to hit a sweet spot just outside of the syrupy sentimentality into which such a song could easily fall.
The album’s other bright spot, “Old School,” also prominently features a rapper (Snoop Dogg) but focuses more on how much Lyfe and Snoop love their cars. Its beat actually varies from the rest of the album, and Lyfe shines on the more up-tempo, swaggering rhythm. The strength of the track would seem to fly in the face of whatever Lyfe fears about singing on faster tracks and at faster tempos, and is undeservedly buried in the album’s back half.
For all that “Lyfe Change” is, it represents neither a change for Lyfe from his previous work nor a life-altering listening experience. Hopefully Lyfe will branch out from “clever” puns on his first name and record an original album sometime soon, otherwise he is putting his talent to waste.