Sunday, 13 May 2012

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Virgo shines bright on The System

HIT MAKER: The singer delivers a sophomore smash. (Photo: VP Records).

On his new album, The System, when Romain Virgo sings the haunting refrain “This is my concern” on the spare, acoustic-guitar-driven album opener (and title track) you want to believe him. After all, one of the record’s primary selling points is the heart and mind concerns Virgo has for society’s less fortunate. And his feelings are so earnestly expressed that calling the 22-year-old a budding activist wouldn’t be a stretch.

There is no shortage of stirring social commentary – from the poor man’s lament “Minimum Wage” to the hustler’s anthem “Another Day, Another Dollar” to the similarly themed “Food Fi Di Plate” – which serves to demonstrate Virgo’s determination to give voice to the young, voiceless and vulnerable. The repeat-worthy “I Know Better,” a wised-up meditation about sidestepping criminal temptation and taking the high road, is particularly remarkable. Such powerful tracks, evidently, offer the Rising Stars graduate perfect opportunities to give full rein to the plush vocals, raw emotion and assured delivery we have come to expect from him.

But as far as The System goes, it’s not all poverty and pain. In fact, Virgo cheers up considerably by the album’s second half, which announces a brighter mood with the aid of melodious romantic songs and feel-good ballads that recall a young Beres – a comparison Romain Virgo had better get used to.

While the life-affirming “Not Today” and a reggaefied cover of Adele’s “Don’t You Remember?” are highly favoured winners, “Mama’s Song” and “Rich In Love” are indelible delights. The same goes for the Busy Signal-assisted “Broken Heart” (about a rakish Ms. Wrong) and the eternally optimistic album closer “Press On.”

Revealing a hard-earned wisdom and a lyrical maturity that belies the fact that Virgo has barely cracked his 20s, The System is a sophomore triumph replete with highlights. The album’s true success, however, is undoubtedly how it manages to dually entertain and challenge the status quo while making a strong case for Virgo’s place among today’s reggae singer-songwriters who matter. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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