Originally published on So So Gay on 27 September 2014.
For the uninitiated, Cris Cab is a promising new talent hailing from Miami, Florida – so promising in fact, that he has big-hitters like Pharrell Williams, Dallas Austin and Wyclef Jean all contributing material and twiddling knobs on his debut album, Where I Belong. Williams was even recently quoted as saying about Cab: ‘Just get ready – this is the beginning of many great albums, this is a career.’ – no pressure, then!
The album certainly opens confidently, with the modern reggae vibe of ‘The Sun is Gonna Rise Again’ followed by hit single ‘Liar Liar’. The latter was an obvious choice for a single, being an album highlight and having a great hook, indicating Pharrell Williams’ Midas Touch shows no sign of relenting.
The husky nature of Cab’s vocals sound surprisingly mature for a 21-year-old and bring something pleasingly different to the table. However, they can also sound a little strained at times – particularly noticeable on the slightly trite ‘Ticket’. Across the course of the album, Cab doesn’t seem to have the biggest of singing ranges but he certainly maximises what he does possess.
While his vocal may not seem like your typical 21-year-old, some of his lyrics belie his mature sound. On the Dallas Austin track ‘Fables’, we hear things like ‘Can’t get off the couch, yeah / Bong sits on the table still’, which don’t do him any favours. While on the almost nonsensical album’s title track, Cab utters the words, ‘Made by memories / Born by satellite / Thirst for energy / Wasted Friday nights … Lost in vertigo / That’s my kinda high’ – clearly someone was high when they wrote these lyrics.
That said, it’s hard to seriously dislike any of the material on Cab’s debut, such is the inbuilt jollity of the reggae sound, even when it’s passed through a contemporary filter. ‘Paradise (On Earth)’ is a great example of the young artist managing to create some crossover potential with a song that is true to his sound but with more straightforward mainstream appeal. The flip side to his genre of choice, however, is that by having such a strong musical identity, the songs can have a tendency to blend into one another. Tracks like ‘Long Weekend’ work in the moment, though leave you with little to no lasting impression.
As first albums go, however, Where I Belong is a decent first stab and certainly Cab is doing his own thing (even if it’s a little one-dimensional at times), helping to bring the reggae vibe back to a mainstream audience – with a little help from some important friends, of course. The album’s sunny rhythms will undoubtedly lift your spirits and make you tap your feet, so more’s the pity there isn’t a better killer to filler ratio.
Standout Tracks: ‘Liar Liar’ / ‘Paradise (On Earth)’ / ‘The Truth’