Over his career, 40 has been those artists that people either knew of a blank stare from. You might have heard of him if you listened to underground R&B, but for whatever reason, 40 has yet to garner a bigger name for himself. Attempting to do just that, 40’s Canvas goes a safe route where the genre’s concerned, which has both positive and negative effects.
On the whole, Canvas goes for nostalgia, treading 80’s and 90’s R&B. though not an original idea, it’s one suited to 40. He is neither the party starter nor the center of attention; he’s best in intimacy, reveling in slow mid-grooves and ballads. On “Self Portrait” and “Counting Stars,” 40 croons over piano with a band backing him up as the song progresses. He shows restraint and emotion on the former and divine backing vocals and falsetto on the latter. As a balladeer, 40 has great range and can deliver lyrics with sincerity, lending Canvas heart.
On the slow jams, “Black” and “Adorable,” 40 goes into extremes in terms of approach. On “Black,” the production is a straight lift of baby-making R&B ballads. While I love the acoustic guitar that opens the track, the song drowns in bass. For that reason, I prefer the Swings-less version, because 40’s piano cuts through the bass to brighten it up. Also, Swings’ humor is out of place here. His lyrics are too dirty in comparison to 40’s romantic views on the same situation.
On the other side of this, “Adorable” is the best track on “Canvas.” More of a remake than a cover of R&B’s heyday, the track has less going on and excels in its simplicity. The synths are on full display, bringing “Adorable” closer to this time period and 40 is alone here, with no background vocals. This pairing down is why I love 40; when the spotlight is on him, 40 knocks it out of the park without the use of tricks.
40 is in need of more attention, and while Canvas isn’t the best showcase of his talent, gems like “Counting Stars” and “Adorable” give this R&B singer more than enough space to highlight his talents as a vocalist, writer, and pianist to a wider audience.