Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite - Critical Reception

Critical Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic
Robert Christgau
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly B+
Los Angeles Times
Q
Urban Latino
Virgin Encyclopedia

Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite received generally positive reviews from music critics. It was called a "masterpiece" by several critics that viewed it as a departure from the mainstream, hip hop-oriented R&B of the time. Maxwell was compared to soul singers of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Marvin Gaye and Prince. OJ Lima of Vibe praised Maxwell's musical style, describing the album as a "refreshing detour from hump-bouncin' '90s R&B." Dimitri Ehrlich of Entertainment Weekly wrote that Maxwell "smooths hip-hop's and soul's edges, proving that black dance music doesn't automatically mean ghetto culture." Jim Farber of the New York Daily News called it "one of the few modern sex albums to offer a sense of succor". Music journalist Kerika Fields wrote that Maxwell "is revolutionizing R&B music while reminiscing its past" on Urban Hang Suite. The album received four out of four stars from Connie Johnson of the Los Angeles Times, who commented that "Maxwell manages to sound sweet, soothing and sexy at the same time." Rolling Stone's David Fricke compared its seductive themes and sound to the work of MFSB and Barry White, and wrote that Maxwell "has a talent for sweet talk. And marathon foreplay." Fricke also compared Maxwell's concept for the album to that of Marvin Gaye's double album Here, My Dear (1978), which dealt with Gaye's divorce, and perceived that Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was reworked as a treatise on monogamy.

American Visions writer Michael George praised Maxwell's songwriting and stated "In an age where young, black artist are criticized (often rightly so) for misogynistic lyrics, Maxwell's focus on commitment is refreshing. But more important, he can flat-out sing." Urban Latino called it "one of the most soulful releases of the year", and compared Maxwell's music to "the soul of Curtis Mayfield, the poetics of Beni More and the stage presence of Michael Jackson, pre-Thriller?". Yahoo! Music's Dan Leroy called the album an "astonishing debut" and praised Maxwell's vintage influence. Daryl Easlea of BBC Online praised him for "the simple economy" of his vocals and the album's "sophisticated, accessible R&B". Stephen Cook of Allmusic wrote that it is "destined to become a classic contemporary R&B disc." In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Arion Berger stated, " laid-back romanticism has heat at its core and a powerful groove that grounds the music: By varying the push of the beat but retaining the central mellow vibe, Maxwell creates a sound as felicitous on headphones as it is in the bedroom." However, music journalist Peter Shapiro panned Maxwell's lyrics and called it "overly mannered pastiche of early 70s soul all style and no substance." In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a "dud" rating, indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought."

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