TJ Saddler has created a solid contemporary R&B record with his debut album “Believe in Beautiful.”
The co-owner of Sadson studio, Saddler had a hand in writing all 11 songs, engineered the album and produced it with a handful of collaborators, primarily Nic Brown and Ryan Anderson.
Building the songs around his beautiful high voice that was showcased in the a cappella group No Better Cause, Saddler incorporates plenty of synthesizers and well-crafted drum beats to create smooth R&B -- a sound that peaks with the string-filled midtempo ballad “Where Would I Go.”
That love song is followed by the opposite in sentiment in the keyboard-rooted “Don’t Want You Back,” allowing Saddler to express the ache of loss with his gospel-rooted, soulful singing.
“Believe in Beautiful” features midsong raps from Kingg Kreole, Problem, Cash and most effectively Phip Phippa, who trades lines with Saddler on “Stranger in the Night,” the darkest of the songs.
The disc saves its most powerful punches for the final three songs. That trio starts with “Plan Your Work,” which features Saddler’s son Thomas III, who pipes up early in this sweet, wise, father-to-son exhortation to make your own destiny and never give up.
It’s followed by “Blessed,” a violin-tinged number about being happy with what life has given. The album wraps up with the timely civil rights-rooted “Freedom.”
“Freedom” provides a perfect ending for “Believe in Beautiful,” a solid album from Saddler, a fine singer who deserves to be widely heard. Grade: B+