By Mike Dunn
If Lenny Kravitz’s music career — that is, the one that stands apart from his career as paparazzi fodder and lover of famous, rich and beautiful women — has a common thread. It’s always been his ability to wring a hook and a hit out of something blatantly simple. Whether it was his early ability to shapeshift from Curtis Mayfield-inspired soul to riffy classic rock within the same side of a record, Kravitz always managed to make his charisma a bigger focal point than anything he was actually doing musically.
His latest, Raise Vibration, kicks off in a similar manner, on the simple premise of “We Can Get It All Together,” with its opening line, “Wrapped up in sorrow, illusions I can’t find words to explain, caught up in nothing, confusion has turned my world insane.” Kravitz eschews a vivid description of his sorrow and confusion for a meagre explanation for how he’s feeling. Simple, easily-digested lyrics have always been his bread and butter, so the expectation that age might present some new wisdom is only wishful thinking.
Production has always been a strong suit for Kravitz, and on the second cut, “Low,” he drops some really serviceable funk grooves, complete with a pretty nice Michael Jackson impression popping up throughout. The title track leads off with a recognizable rock riff with Kravitz singing above, before dropping into an instrumental section that hangs on one chord, doing little to actually “raise the vibration.” “Here To Love” is another warm soda — a piano ballad leading off with the line, “We must all unite, for we are one creation.” It’s at this point the publicity stream got a little sketchy, and maybe that’s the best thing that can be said about Raise Vibration.
You get the feeling that, to Lenny Kravitz, making music is just the easiest way for him to stay mildly relevant in the vacuous culture of being a celebrity. Having heard enough of this record, and knowing his early catalogue (with props to “Always On The Run” and “Rock n’ Roll is Dead”) lyrically, Kravitz has insisted on vague and boring proselytizing his entire career, telling listeners any number of things they “got to” do, whether it’s “let love rule,” “believe, believe in yourself,” “all unite,” or “raise the vibration.” One would think that in this era, an artist with his level of name recognition would put the work into finally say something that isn’t surface-level stupid, but maybe that’s too high a bar for Kravitz. The low bar is so much easier: existing as just another pretty cog in L.A.’s dimwitted celebrity scene who can actually play a bit, but with no brains to back up his other talents.BMG, Lenny Kravitz, Raise Vibration, Record Review