The supernerd phenomenon that emerged in the early '90s is equal parts blessing and curse, but the blessings are so damn good. These culture gods, whatever their chosen medium, don't so much infuse their work with their influences as flex their encyclopedic biceps. For instance, Quentin Tarantino makes films that unapologetically 'borrowâ?� from his heroes, but he honors them by flipping them upside-down into relevance, finding himself along the way.
Aloe Blacc has come out of nowhere with a fully formed tortured-Lothario-with-soul persona to deliver an album so jaw-dropping in its virtuosity that it can often lead to frustration for its lack of a sole through line. What starts as an exercise in blip-hop new wave with 'Whole Worldâ?� ' which categorically lists his idols (notably Sam Cooke and Miles Davis) ' evolves into a heartbreaking, post-rap cover of Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Comeâ?� retitled 'Long Time Coming.â?� Demons slightly purged, Blacc allows a glimpse into his id on 'Are You Readyâ?� and into the city-dwelling backpacker with 'Busking,â?� a brilliant street-noise ditty.
On 'Bailar Scene Iâ?� and 'Nascimento Scene II,â?� however, things get global fast. Slipping in and out of fluent Spanish, Blacc ' all via his own smooth production ' breathlessly runs through everything from salsa to baile-funk to dancehall, pausing briefly for the beautiful Van Morrison-inspired title cut. He spits rhymes that fade out midsentence. He lets his friend Madlib hit the boards for less than four Motown minutes on 'One Inna.â?� He covers John Legend's somber piano ballad 'Ordinary Peopleâ?� as a Caribbean rumba. In other words, he does what he wants and he does it exceptionally well.
In its stylistic leanings and originality, Shine Through exposes Blacc's R&B-crooning contemporaries as shockingly dated. The album's one weak spot is its insistence on showing all of its cards too fast. As Roger Ebert once presciently remarked about Reservoir Dogs, 'Now that we know Quentin Tarantino can make a movie like Reservoir Dogs, it's time for him to move on and make a better one.â?�