Old-school artist explores new sounds
R&B singer Todd Michael “Leon” Bridges was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. He began writing lyrics from a very young age before deciding to learn guitar to accompany his singing. Bridges struggled to get his music career off the ground at first, working a day job at a restaurant while he played countless open-mic nights around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This experience helped him start honing his sound into a retro 1960s-style soul. He began gathering followers who would travel to see him play before two local producers took notice.
Leading with the standout track “Coming Home,” his demo was so well received that he eventually signed with Columbia Records and soon released a critically acclaimed album, also called Coming Home. His stardom only grew from there, as he soon scored a musical guest spot on Saturday Night Live, followed by a collaboration with rapper Macklemore. His song “River” appeared on the soundtrack for TV show Big Little Lies. Bridges returned to the studio last year, and his new album, Good Thing, dropped in May of this year.
It’s obvious right off the bat that Bridges has attempted to add slightly more contemporary elements to his sound, as his tender Weeknd-esque falsetto croons over quiet violins on the opener, “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand.” Immediately following is “Bad Bad News,” which mixes a slinky electro-pop verse with horns and crowd vocals on the chorus. He experiments with ‘80s synth-rock on “Forgive You,” channels Bruno Mars on “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be),” and finishes with a slow-jam tribute to his mother on “Georgia To Texas.”
While it’s commendable that Bridges ventured into new territory, the ensuing results don’t quite measure up to his debut in quality. When he’s in his soul wheelhouse, Bridges shines bright–but when he moves outside of the box, the results get confused. His songwriting isn’t quite ready to make the new elements sound good. That being said, however, Bridges has proven that he can grow as a writer, and it’s a pretty safe bet that pretty soon those oddities will fit seamlessly into his writing. Good Thing may not always deliver, but there’s enough there that the listener can hear that his sound is in no way finished developing, so they should probably stick around to see what’s next.