Chrisette Michele is grand. She possesses a timeless sound and already has held her own while working with musical heavyweights: Appearing on the chorus on Jay-Z’s “Lost Ones” and a handful of hooks on Nas'”Hip-Hop is Dead,” Michele’s jazzy vibrato endowed those tracks with the element most rappers try to capture by sampling old-school tracks.
On her debut album “I Am,” Michele, who co-wrote every track, does an exceptional job of traversing the “then” and “now.” On “Good Girl,” the twentysomething Long Island native tackles what makes a man golden — cash falling short of conversation — like a Strong Island version of Lady Day. Michele’s voice resonates when poured over a gritty beat, such as on “Let’s Rock”; sounds rich on the bossa nova-inspired “Best of Me”; and soothes on the acoustic-driven and lullaby-ish “Your Joy.”
On “Be OK,” produced by and featuring will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, Michele sings “Imma take my Lexus to the mall, Get a little black dress just because,” but the song is less about retail therapy, and more about finding a new start after losing an old lover.
Chrisette Michele establishes herself, not as a superior version of the R&B singers already on the scene, but as the kind of artist who is, quite possibly, one-of-a-kind. CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The rich violin backdrop on “Let’s Rock” conjures up something from an old Western — but in a good way! Michele’s query: “Wanna rock with the Chris on the microphone? I was studying Miss Billie, Miss Ella, Miss Sarah Vaughan,” says loads about where she’s coming from.