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What's On  


Seal IV
label: Warner Bros.
released: 09.09.03
our score: 2.0 out of 5.0

download Seal lyrics and sheet music
Nothing's Going On
by: matt cibula

What’s Goin’ On is generally acknowledged as one of the great soul records ever, but not by me. I think it’s pretty good, but I also think it’s massively over-rated by critics who are transfixed by the whole oh-a-conscious-Motown-record-and-it-pissed-off-Berry-Gordy story. I have nothing against a record being “conscious,” but there’s more than one way to skin that cat—anyway, it’s only Marvin Gaye’s fifth-best record.

So why Seal, whom I think has been a massively underrated maker of great pop singles for more than a decade, wanted to remake What’s Goin’ On is beyond me. But he’s done it, and it’s just not very good.

No, it’s not a direct straight-up remake; it’s just a bunch of songs that ride that whole vibe. “Get It Together” stumbles to life with fakey crowd/studio noise (just like What’s Goin’ On!), then urges us to get it together, to “trust and forgive each other,” all set to a kinda lame sub-Style Council beat; not even a late-song acoustic breakdown can save it. The next tune, “Love’s Divine,” talks about how Seal’s spirit is flying, how “love is what he needs to help him know his name,” and a bunch of other things, and the beat is almost non-existent. This is Seal IV, people.

See, people tried to warn him about this. Seal implies in the liner notes that this group of songs has caused his “so-called support system of friends” to abandon him, but I think it likely that they just told him that stuff like “Heavenly… (Good Feeling)” and the faux-reggae “Where There’s Gold” was bogus, soft, sappy, yucky, boring stuff indeed, and that he just didn’t want to listen. Not too many of these tunes admit for any questions, because Seal has all the answers: God is good, greed is bad, love is totally awesome. At least Marvin had the good sense to ask “What’s goin’ on?”

Even more disappointing is the fact that this record is produced by Trevor Horn, maker of such perfect things as ABC’s The Lexicon of Love and Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” back in his prime. I’m not sure Horn has listened to a single record since then, though; the songs have no drive, no life, no guts. Stuff like “Touch” might be pretty enough, and there’s some coolness to his comeon in “Loneliest Star,” but nothing surprises, nothing grooves too hard, and it’s all over before it’s begun.

I know Seal wasn’t exactly a hardcore act before, but there was a desperation to his voice in “A Kiss from a Rose” and “Crazy” that is lacking here. I guess that’s what happens when you know everything; you forget that other people don’t know what you do. And, sadly, I still think it’s important for songs to be interesting, good, and fun. I don’t hear anything here that makes me wonder anything—except, perhaps, what’s goin’ on with you, Seal?
23-Jun-2004 6:10 PM

Download Seal Sheet Music, Guitar Tabs, or Lyrics at musicnotes.com!

If you liked Seal IV ...

1. Let Me Roll
2. Get It Together
3. Love's Divine
4. Waiting For You
5. My Vision
6. Don't Make Me Wait
7. Touch
8. Where There's Gold
9. Loneliest Star
10. Heavenly... (Good Feeling)
11. Tinsel Town