Cody Chestnutt: The Headphone Masterpiece

Cody ChesnuTT’s debut album, The Headphone Masterpiece, is what all pop/rock-soul-R&B-hip-hop hybrids should be: good, raw, fun, and funky. ChesnuTT mixes ’60s-style rock with ’70s soul and ’90s hip-hop and R&B in an eclectic celebration of sound. This lo-fi gem was recorded in his bedroom and sounds like it; it’s essentially a 36-track musical diary. He sings testosterone-driven songs of passion and tender tales of mental anguish with equal abandon. When he whispers, “I know my breakdown is on the way,” on “My Women, My Guitars,” you feel his impending fall. He plays almost all of the instruments and sings most of the vocals, and he’s often out of tune and off-key, but that only adds to the emotion and recklessness of the album. He holds everything together with a few polished and catchy tracks that are scattered throughout. On “Looks Good in Leather,” he sounds like Terence Trent D’Arby or Ben Harper, but with a style that’s all Cody ChesnuTT. “The World Is Coming to My Party” is a full-fledged dance anthem, complete with a rafter-shaking groove that Prince would be proud of. He just as easily channels Curtis Mayfield on the smooth “Serve This Royalty,” which showcases ChesnuTT’s soulful voice and may be the finest track, combining his great grasp of groove with clever lyrics like, “We can crown kings in Adidas.” ChesnuTT is as comfortable in the hip-hop world as he is in the rock and soul spheres. He lays down a funky rap on “War Between the Sexes,” and few hardcore gangstas can match his misogyny on “Bitch I’m Broke.” While a few songs lack ChesnuTT’s charm, the misses don’t disturb the groove enough to hinder the overall effect: a masterpiece, with or without headphones.

Review also available at allmusic.com

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