Leon Bridges, “Good Thing”
With his 2015 debut Coming Home and its ensuing endless tour, Leon Bridges aimed for—and struck with a sniper’s precision—the idea of buttoned-up, slick soul circa 1963; a post-Camelot era sound that was equal parts early Marvin Gaye and end-of-days Bob Newhart. In tribute to that holy combo, Bridges—ever the smoothie—even dressed the stylish vintage (if not slightly cartoony) part in sharp, thin lapel suits and cool, colorful cardigans. With that, Leon Bridges was an actor in a costume, but one with a sweet-and-salty voice and all the right moves to go with the richly theatrical presentation.
For Good Thing, the second act of the same show, Bridges has decided to go far less retro and more predictably au courant with synths, contemporary grooves and melodies, and an icily stoic producer who has aided the likes of Jason Derulo and Fifth Harmony in their sleekness. Of course, it’s great that Bridges didn’t do Coming Home again, and decided, instead, to go to someone else’s home where he still felt comfortable utilizing that Sam Cooke–inspired croon. There’s a frisky falsetto and a playful, curt sensuality on “Mrs.” and the Isleys-ish “Shy” that give off the sort of erotic thrill that never bothered to infringe on his debut. Then again, that same sense of slick seduction is what lets Leon down on “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be).” One Bruno Mars is enough.
Anyone expecting Bridges to go too far to the right toward space funk, Top 40 pop, or the cranky contempo-R&B of a Childish Gambino, fear not. Good Thing suckles up to the teat of the more organic Coming Home with the horn-accented swing of “Bad Bad News,” and the lean, mean album-closing “Georgia to Texas,” a coming-of-age ballad that reminds listeners that no matter how far you’ve driven, you’re never really too far from where you started. That’s an uncomfortable truth Leon Bridges is going to have to live with for some time—or at least until he tries on another costume.