Who says neo-soul has to be all righteous love and incense-scented uplift? Van Hunt’s debut, while more lush and original than recent offerings from retro-obsessed peers like Musiq or Donnie, rings refreshingly dark and disturbing. Hardly the smooth, overconfident Romeo, the Atlanta native comes off on Van Hunt as a heartsick chump, suffering through one dysfunctional relationship after the other on songs such as ”Anything (To Get Your Attention)” and ”Down Here in Hell (With You).” Certainly, vulnerability is no new gambit in R&B wooing, but this guy’s doormat mentality is downright twisted: ”[I] wanna be unsatisfied/ So you can feel the heat coming from me, baby/What would I do if we were perfect?/Where would I go for disappointment?”
Despite all his emotional turmoil, Van Hunt remains mercifully melisma-free, singing clearly and crisply and saving the crests and falls for the swirling synths, slick guitars, and percolating bass lines. Even when the music is at its most upbeat, as on ”Highlights,” Van Hunt still gets beat down, lamenting, ”You made leaving me look easy.” Good or bad, love hurts.