Keeping true to his word, Maxwell has released the second installment to his trilogy album. BlackSUMMERS’night was released on July 1st after a seven year hiatus from the music industry. Breaks for the singer aren’t uncommon as he has previously taken an eight year hiatus after his third album. Although it takes time, Maxwell’s music is always worth the wait and this time is no different. At first listen, I wouldn’t put this album into heavy rotation. Only one song caught my attention and everything else sounded too much outside of the norm of what R&B should sound like. However, after a more in depth listen, this album isn’t just a bunch of songs thrown together. Maxwell has managed to create a narrative that sums up an entire relationship within twelve songs. From beginning to end, audiences hear Maxwell fall in love and suffer heartbreak with no idea how to move on. With this album, Maxwell has solidified the uniqueness and icon status attributed to him.
BlackSUMMERS’night can be broken up into four distinct stages that define a relationship. The first three tracks on the album highlight Maxwell’s interest and attraction to a woman that has caught his eye. The first song “All The Ways That Love Can Feel” has a sort of disco feel and upbeat tempo. He is on the pursuit to learn what he can about his love interest, expressing that he wants her to “show me the lessons of your life”. The song does a great job of setting up the story that flows throughout the rest of the album. Track 2, known as “The Fall”, tends to showcase a bit of hesitation on Maxwell’s part, almost as if he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. He seems to be bracing himself for the heartbreak that he believes will come instead of going in with a positive attitude. Though he mentions the different seasons, it seems that the fall season acts as a metaphor for the bad times that await the pair. The song’s tempo speeds up towards the song’s climax, which is a great transition from the song’s slowness. It adds emphasis to the line “time, it just rages”, acting as the acceleration of time. “Ill” is more of a dance track as Maxwell’s doubt seems to have faded and he is on the chase. He has his leading lady figured out and knows exactly what she wants in life. His description of her portrays her to be one hell of a woman with confidence and the need for attention. The three tracks showcase the potential of a budding romance and from this point; the transition to the second stage is made.
The Honeymoon Stage
The next four songs on the album display the good times of the relationship. The album’s single “Lake by the Ocean” describes an all consuming love that Maxwell feels with his girlfriend. The many references to water emphasize the rawness and purity of this love he feels. This song isn’t the most contemporary R&B song as it utilizes some pop undertones. “Fingers Crossed” highlight’s the female’s doubt and reservations about their relationship. He only wants her to take a risk and allow him to be the man she needs. The song ends in an instrumental, which he dedicates to her. The good vibe emitted from the instrumental functions as reassurance that they can be great together and seems to act as his feelings for her. “Hostage” displays that Maxwell is completely in love at this point. It’s self explanatory in nature and he croons about being a prisoner to her love. My favorite track of the album “1990x” encompasses the art and act of making love. The song puts me in the mindset of “Fortunate” and the vibe it provides is reminiscent of the era he came up in. It is futuristic in sound and once again, he utilizes another instrumental towards the song’s ending. The breakdowns in this and his other songs highlight the distinction and uniqueness of bands and instrumentation. It’s like getting two songs in one. With all relationships, everything isn’t always perfect and Maxwell doesn’t shy away from this.
“Gods” hints at his girlfriend’s betrayal and manipulation. She isn’t who she says she is and her ability to have him fooled puts her on the level of a god. It is not clear exactly what has transpired between the couple to get them to that particular point, but it’s clear that the honeymoon phase is over. Where most couples can get past a rough patch in their relationship, this relationship fails. “Lost” speaks to Maxwell’s grief over the breakup. There is plenty of imagery in the song as his ex has moved on and started a family, while he is struggling to move forward. The song has some undertones of rock and roll with the electric guitar in the background. Yet, his haunting vocals make the song seem akin to blues. While his ex has moved on, Maxwell can do nothing else but move on. However, getting on with his life doesn’t necessarily mean that he is over her.
Track 10, “Of All Kind”, has a sort of pop feel to it and pays homage to his ex. He places her in high regard and cites that she is “the highest high of all time.” To put her on such a high pedestal, exemplifies how important and pivotal she was to his life. Some of the lyrics seem to hint to death with lines like “That I wanna be where you are where spirits go” and “I would take your place instead / I just wanna end the pain, baby”. However, he could possibly be comparing her essence to that of an angel, something pure and ethereal. The production seems to mirror that sentiment. “Listen Hear” is his reassurance to his ex that no matter what happens in her life, he’ll always be there for her and that his feelings haven’t faded. Although the song’s tempo has a sad tone, a sense of hope is implied on Maxwell’s end and pegs the question if a reconciliation is possible. “Night” is the final song on the album, but functions more like an outro. The twenty three second song is only the sound of waves crashing. Coincidentally, the last word in the album’s title is night, which signals that there is more to come. The waves also give off a sense of purification and cleansing. It seems that Maxwell has found peace or a sense of closure from discussing the relationship.
BlackSUMMERS’night seems to tell the story of a summer fling that didn’t end well. The album’s title puts emphasis on the word summer with its capitalization. This seems to highlight the relationship’s time frame: short and temporary. The album’s use of up-tempo and vibrant production adds to the album’s summertime theme. However, there are other qualities about this album that hint to a romance that started in the summer. The album is twelve tracks just like twelve months in a year. The flow of the album mirrors the seasons as the album starts with a blossoming attraction, which is spring, moving into a heated romance, which mirrors summer. From there, the relationship falls and he is left heartbroken, which signal winter. The last track on the album hints at a sense of rebirth after hard times and winter moves back into springtime. Nevertheless, Maxwell does a great job of establishing relatability and providing a variety of sounds for a variety of people. There’s something for everyone on this album. In the end, blackSUMMERS’night is a 7 out of 10. The narrative and production makes this a good album, but there are some songs that I could do without. It’s good to know that legends from the 90s can still put out great music in a genre that has lost its way. With another good album under his belt, I’m looking forward to the third and final installment. Maxwell’s blackSUMMERS’night can be found in stores, ITunes, and Spotify.