TRUST ME. If you don't already have it, get a copy of Teedra Moses' Complex Simplicity. Lovers of thoughtful modern R&B; (or really solid music, period) shouldn't be disappointed. The record hasn't left my changer in months. And it should have been on my best-of-2004 list, but I had to choose 10 CDs. It came down to Rahsaan Patterson's brilliant After Hours and Teedra's joint. I flipped a coin: heads. Rahsaan won.
Since Complex Simplicity hit the streets in August, I've been trying to get ahold of Teedra. But the R&B-pop; newcomer has not been easy to corner. When she wasn't on the road promoting her debut, she was somewhere writing hits for the likes of Christina Milian (the charming "Dip It Low"). Now that Complex Simplicity is about to be released in the United Kingdom, Teedra is gearing up for a European tour. I hope the album finds a better reception over there than it did here in the States, where it failed to generate any real heat on the charts though critics widely praised the effort. And the first single, the vintage-Mary J. Blige-inspired "Be Your Girl," got a fair amount of spins on urban radio.
"The masses didn't get a chance to hear the album," says Teedra, who's calling from her California home. "I kinda wanted it that way. People that love what I do heard it. I can still make money in this business by writing for others. You don't have to hear [my songs] on the radio over and over."
But the album still deserved more attention than it received. It's not often that I slip on a contemporary urban-pop CD and dig it from start to finish. No duds. No filler. All 14 cuts on Complex Simplicity ride polished, programmed grooves that retain a surprisingly warm feel -- a thick blend that evokes late '80s-early '90s R&B; without ever sounding retro.
Teedra wrote the lyrics, and they mostly center on a subject the down-to-earth 27-year-old knows well: the drama of love. With a passionate, effortless soprano reminiscent of Patrice Rushen, Cherrelle and Renee Diggs of the '80s funk unit Starpoint, Teedra is the seductress ("Backstroke" and "Rescue Me"), the hood rat who's "too cute to fight" ("You Better Tell Her") and the once-scorned lover with a new bulletproof heart ("You'll Never Find [A Better Woman]" featuring Jadakiss).
Soul veteran Raphael Saadiq contributes and sings on the dreamy ballad "Take Me." And Lil' Jon tempers his usual riotous crunkness on the spare, catchy "You Better Tell Her." Each track flows in the energetic mix of melodious, hip-hop-dusted soul constructed by Teedra's main producer, Paul Poli, best known for his work with Black Eyed Peas and Nivea.
"I met Poli through my ex-boyfriend," the artist says. "Poli knew a little bit more about putting music together than I did. But I didn't want anyone to dictate to me how I should sound. I've been listening to music my whole life."
One of Teedra's strongest vocal influences was her mother Shirley, a one-time gospel singer on the Southern revival circuit. Two years ago, she died from complications brought on by a debilitating muscle disease. Teedra pays tribute to her on the effervescent, bossa nova-splashed "I Think of You (Shirley's Song)," one of the highlights on Complex Simplicity.
Before music, the New Orleans native was an assistant stylist to the stars, pulling together outfits for R. Kelly and Gwen Stefani. Although the pay was cool, Teedra eventually grew tried of the job. She wanted some of that spotlight.
"There was just all this music in me," the artist says. "But when I broke my leg on a wardrobe job a few years back, I knew that was God telling me, 'Girl, you're too complacent. You need to follow what you want to do."
She did just that. And if Complex Simplicity is any indication, music is definitely the right fit for Teedra.
"I love all kinds of music," she says. "I'd love to work with Shania Twain or Faith Hill. I mean, why not? I want to do it all and stay on the grind and keep my music out there."