On Thursdays we review albums that are considered “classic”. Without a doubt, this will be our most critically unsupported “classic” album for a Throwback Thursday review yet, but I stand by the LP none-the-less. Although it was not received with critical acclaim and accolades upon its release, Pretty Ricky’s debut LP Bluestars is a classic and highly underrated R&B album. This project was much more than just the album that brought fans ‘Grind On Me’, rather it is full of great tracks top to bottom. Released almost a decade ago, this album has aged very well, even though the careers of Pleasure P, Baby Blue, Slick’em, and Spectacular have not. With tracks like ‘Your Body’, ‘On the Hotline’, ‘Nothing But a Number’, and of course ‘Grind On Me’, Bluestar is one of the best R&B group albums of all time, no disrespect to Boyz II Men, TLC, and Destiny’s Child. It is really hard to think of any R&B group since Pretty Ricky, to do it as well as these four men did with their solo album, and although they have since broke up, just last year rumors circulated over a possible reunion tour. A Bluestars 2 maybe?
Bluestars opens with ‘Playhouse’. Mix together some smooth strings and a hook about eating a woman’s body out, and you have the tone for the rest of the album. Of course sex is a frequent theme of R&B, but it is especially constant in Pretty Ricky’s music. Think of Pretty Ricky as four R. Kellys with a bunch of ‘Bump N’ Grind’esk tracks with almost no ‘I Believe I Can Fly’esk tracks. Not necessarily the most diverse set of artists, but if you know what you are signing up for with Pretty Ricky and Bluestars and you need a LP to set the mood, you can’t go wrong with this one. Of course, staying with this theme, ‘Playhouse’ goes into ‘Your Body’, a more up-tempo song where Baby Blue sings “Stuntin’ through the city trying to find a lady whose beautiful but got to have booty too.” ‘Your Body’ certainly isn’t the most lyrical of tracks on the album, but each verse is solid, and its definitely one of the standout tracks on Bluestars.
Third on the album, is the still popular track ‘Grind On Me’, a track which probably puts Pretty Ricky into the “one hit wonder” category for many. Upon its release, ‘Grind On Me’ (or the more radio friendly ‘Grind With Me’ version) peaked in the top 10 for Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and even had a resurgence as it went viral in the past couple years with the mobile web app Vine. ‘Grind On Me’ is a favorite of many and laid out the steps for love making. In 2005, when the single was released, R&B hadn’t really seen much from an R&B group since B2K (whose last album was in 2003) and ‘Grind On Me’ certainly helped fill that void.
Although it was released as a single, Bluestars’ ‘Nothing But a Number’ did not reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart nor was an official music video released. However, ‘Nothing But a Number’ is possibly the best track on the album and still a favorite of many. It may have influenced a lot of statutory after the song was recorded, reminding listeners that “age ain’t nothing but a number” but if you listen carefully Pretty Ricky is pursuing older women in this one. Somehow the group, through its beats and soothing voices, can sing about sex (full of whips and everything) and make it seem like they are serenading about love.
I must say, while it had been years since I heard this album, almost every song was still a hit. ‘Chevy’ is a banger, and for a moment Pretty Ricky takes a break from their sex filled lyrics. ‘Grill Em’ is another similar track. The beat is relatively simple, but the group goes hard. If ‘Grill Em’ was a Nelly release, it likely would have been a hit. While some of the members found their place in the group through singing, and while others found their spot through rapping, it says something that while Drake was still in grade school, Pretty Ricky was blurring the lines between singing and rapping. Opposite of tracks like ‘Chevy’ and ‘Grill Em’ though, ‘Juicy’ is one of the slowest tempo tracks on the project, and as you can guess from the title, the group stucks with the sex theme of Bluestars.
In total, like most albums, the 14-track LP has some throw-away tracks but generally the project is very consistent. It is easy to attack Pretty Ricky and Bluestars in saying the album is too repetitive. However most great albums have a theme, and whether its with content or tempo, the group does find ways to make each song sound like its own. Even if a reunion ensues, Pretty Ricky will never have the discography of groups like TLC, Destiny’s Child, or Boyz II Men, and of course nor will they compare to the R&B legends like R. Kelly or Usher, but Bluestars is a great album. R&B groups could have easily died off two years earlier, but Pretty Ricky’s debut Bluestars through its hit ‘Grind On Me’ was an awesome LP which has aged well, and it certainly should be remembered as a classic.