From the Vault | Coko: Grateful

Coko Grateful

The Coko is a Little Lukewarm

I was 14 years old (!) when Sisters With Voices (SWV) came onto the scene in 1992 with their fresh sound and tight harmonies. They were the younger, hipper version of En Vogue. They were like the older sisters you looked up to, singing of love, lust, and infatuation with more drama and angst than a Judy Blume novel. I mean, when the Human Nature remix of “Right Here” dropped, it was over; they were bonafide (in my humble opinion). Coko, of course, stood out as the lead singer of the group, and her voice was nothing to mess with. Girlfriend’s soprano soared so high, I thought it could never come down. After their smash debut, It’s About Time, they went on to release two other albums, New Beginning and Release Some Tension (Who’s tension? Let’s not go there!). Now fourteen years later, Coko has gone gospel after her foray into the solo arena (Hot Coko, anyone?). I don’t know how her previous solo album did chart sales-wise, because at that time I had sworn off all secular music.

Anyhoo, on to the review…

I listened to Grateful a number of times. I wanted to let it soak in. The problem is, it never did. Not to get all superspiritual on ya’ll, but there was no anointing.* Nothing on the CD really moved me. The songs just didn’t grab my attention. Now I’m just being picky, but here it goes. The synth strings in the lead single, “Clap Your Hands” make the song sound like the theme of a 70s TV show. Not a good look. On “Mighty God” and “I Get Joy,” I detected Coko trying to capture her former glory by repeating familiar SWV refrains from “I’m So Into You” and “Anything,” respectively. Perhaps this is an attempt to create a musical reference and bridge the gap between her “prodigal” life with her “grateful” one. However, these two SWV allusions just made me want to dust off their old CD and pop it into the stereo for nostalgia’s sake.

“Endow Me,” featuring Faith Evans, Fantasia, and Lil Mo, is an overproduced studio concoction that does the Clark Sisters no justice. Apparently, the vocals were all recorded separately, which partly explains their lack of chemistry. I couldn’t even detect Faith’s vocals at all. I may have to give it another listen. The biggest problem with “Endow Me,” however, was not the vocal quality of the singers, but the lack of power and conviction.* There was just no anointing on this song, despite the singers pleading for God to pour his anointing on them. If you listen to the Clark Sisters version, there is clearly a purpose of ministry that permeates their delivery and adlibbing. Twinkie spoke the “Word of God”* throughout the interludes. The Clarks Sisters ministered the song. Coko & Co. merely sang loudly.

Perhaps this is an attempt to create a musical reference and bridge the gap between her “prodigal” life with her “grateful” one. However, these two SWV allusions just made me want to dust off their old CD and pop it into the stereo for nostalgia’s sake. “Endow Me,” featuring Faith Evans, Fantasia, and Lil Mo, is an overproduced studio concoction that does the Clark Sisters no justice. Apparently, the vocals were all recorded separately, which partly explains their lack of chemistry. I couldn’t even detect Faith’s vocals at all. I may have to give it another listen. The biggest problem with “Endow Me,” however, was not the vocal quality of the singers, but the lack of power and conviction.* There was just no anointing on this song, despite the singers pleading for God to pour his anointing on them. If you listen to the Clark Sisters version, there is clearly a purpose of ministry that permeates their delivery and adlibbing. Twinkie spoke the “Word of God”* throughout the interludes. The Clarks Sisters ministered the song. Coko & Co. merely sang loudly.

The best song is the title track, where the mix of lyrics, vocals, and production are just about right. Another gem is the symphonic, worshipful, and majestic “Holy.” In “Hymn Medley,” Coko hits this crazy high note that is just insane. “Please Don’t Forget” contains a pop/rock sound and a 6/8 time signature. However, the corresponding remix at the end of the CD is pure filler. The only difference is less piano and more guitar.

Though Coko’s voice sounds just as good now as it did in her SWV days, if not better, those one or two rare moments of worship actually save the CD. However, the production is pretty mediocre. Coko admits that in contrast to her mainstream projects, she only had a fraction of the resources available to her for this gospel outing. But even if the production isn’t up to par, I think Coko would fare better if she paid more attention to developing as a music minister rather than showing off her vocal skills.

*Note: I wrote this review back when I still significantly influenced by Christianity, so some of the jargon I use is highly influenced by this time in my life. But I still think the album overall was mediocre.

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