Friday, March 02, 2007

CD Review: The Price Of Fame by Bow Wow

It's usually hard for child actors to transition into more adult roles and what's true for actors can also be true for artists. This is the lesson of Bow Wow's fifth album The Price Of Fame. The artist once known as Lil' Bow Wow tries his best to continue his maturation process on this album but it doesn't work. Even though he's almost 20 years old, Bow Wow still sounds like he's still in adolescence as opposed to young manhood.

The signs of maturation you might expect to see on an artist's fifth album (let alone an artist who has become an adult right before our eyes) aren't prevalent on The Price Of Fame. The most obvious example is in the songwriting. Bow Wow has used ghostwriters ever since he first came on the scene but that makes sense since he was a child. However, even now, he still relies on them. Bow Wow is credited as a writer on only three of the album's songs. He should be writing most of his own songs by now and exercising the writing skills he hopefully worked on over the course of his career. While it's well-known that many rappers use ghostwriters, they at least try to appear as if they write their own music. Bow Wow will never gain more respect as an artist if he doesn't grow as a writer.

Another problem with this album is the way it tries to have it both ways when it comes to its audience. Bow Wow is in the unique position of having been a heartthrob to girls his entire career. Not only does Bow Wow have longtime fans who grew up with him, he is continuing to gain new female fans because he's still pretty young. On this album, Bow Wow tries to stay sort of family-friendly while trying to come off as hard at the same time. Bow Wow curses but the words get blocked out (and there is no “unedited” version of the album). It just doesn't sound right and you wonder why Bow Wow didn't just decide to either not curse at all or appeal to all ages with edited and explicit albums.

The previous things I mentioned would not stand out as much if the music was very good. Unfortunately, that's not the case on this album. The thing isn't that the songs are bad but that they are generic and mediocre. Longtime collaborator and mentor Jermaine Dupri produced most of the album and it seems like he's lost a lot of his golden touch. A lot of the songs sound too similar to each other and the line between them blurs sometimes. Listen to “Damn Thing” and “Bet That” and see how much is actually different between the two songs.

Not everything about The Price Of Fame is bad. “Shortie Like Mine” featuring Chris Brown is a light, enjoyable song. The hidden track “I'm A Flirt” featuring R. Kelly is better than most of the album. It's catchy, fun, and should be one of the singles officially released from the album. The album's highlight, however, is “Outta My System.” On this song, Bow Wow presumably talks about his public breakup from singer Ciara. He talks about how his feelings still linger even though he doesn't want them to: “I'm too attached / My heart won't let me fall back / I got it bad / That's what you can call that...” This is the one song from the album that feels real and I wish there were more songs like it.

Ultimately, The Price Of Fame is pretty disappointing. On one hand, I worry about being too hard on Bow Wow. After all, he's still better than some of the grown folks making hip-hop today. On the other hand, he's been in the game for a while and it's time he started to step up. Even if he uses ghostwriters for the rest of his career, Bow Wow needs to figure out if he wants to truly grow up or not. It can be done as evidenced by Lil' Wayne, who guest starred on the album. If Bow Wow can do that (and maybe take a little more chances), his career can last through albums six, seven, and beyond.

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