July 23, 2019 Sugar Ray – Little Yachty (Album Review)
According to Spotify, there are over 8,000 rappers with the word “Lil” in their name—but are any of them ready for the feel-good, summer fiesta of Little Yachty? Here to get the party started and make your summer easy like a Sunday morning, Sugar Ray return with a brand new batch of coconuts on Friday, July 26, 2019, thanks to BMG.
It’s been a decade since we last heard from the happy-go-lucky Sugar Ray. You know the band: hit singles such as 1997’s “Fly,” 1999’s “Every Morning” and “Someday,” and 2001’s “When It’s Over” have ingrained the band into your consciousness for all of eternity. With six albums to their name—including the mega-hits Floored, 14:59, and the eponymous Sugar Ray—and a 30-plus year career full of accolades and endless fan love, this is certainly a band with a proven track record.
Okay, so it’s been ten years, but Sugar Ray—anchored by the loyal core of Vocalist/Guitarist Mark McGrath and Guitarist/Vocalist Rodney Sheppard—still know how to make music. Inspired by McGrath’s recent stint on the surreality series Celebrity Big Brother, the pair found themselves back in the studio and the feeling was, as they say, so very right. Continuing forward with the help of Michael Lloyd (The Monkees, Barry Manilow), Sam Hollander (Weezer, Panic! At The Disco), and Harry Fraud (Sam Smith, Wiz Khalifa), the duo have crafted a perfectly nostalgic feel throughout the 11-song Little Yachty, a tip of the hat to Yacht Rock.
Kicking the collection off with a bright, crisp ukulele, “Highest Tree” pays a joy-filled homage to sitting pretty in life and enjoying the view from cloud nine. With smiles so bright you can envision McGrath and Sheppard raising their glasses in a toast, they amp up the island feels and mix gentle Reggae beats into “Coconut Bay.” As a refreshing, salty breeze permeates the air, you will be forced to sway your hips and dip your toes into the sand.
This vibe continues into the self-explanatory “Good Good Lovin” before they change it up a bit with “Trouble,” a Country Pop-dusted confession that though problems are a-plenty, so is the love. Next, with a gently hopping beat that begins to cycle back to those soft Reggae tones, they continue to discuss relationships with “Sunday Love,” then bring out the acoustics to open “Perfect Mornings,” enjoyably relaxing mornings in bed reflecting on the one you love. This all allows the island breezes begin to sway again for the thump of “All Of The Time.”
If this middle section of the album has become a bit sleepy and repetitive for you, well, the full-blown Reggae anthem “What The World Needs” will wake you back up as it spreads its joyous message of love. The right song at the right time, if you stream/download one track from this disc, this is absolutely the one! Reinspired, they kick it up for “Make It Easy,” a catchy bop with some beautiful guitar work that segues flawlessly into the band’s cover of Rupert Holmes’ 1979 hit single “(Escape) The Pina Colada Song.” If you like making love at midnight, so do Sugar Ray! As though this song was written just for them, it fits the band and Little Yachty like a glove and is already a favorite in the band’s live set.
Ultimately, Sugar Ray go out guns a-blazing with the solid gold 1980s feel of “California Gold.” A sleek rocker that will have you tapping your toes, this closes out Little Yachty on a high note. Sadly, however, the album doesn’t reach its full stride until its third act, making the collection weigh heavy on filler—beachy, sunshine-kissed embraces, but filler nonetheless.
So, while Sugar Ray will always be a good time band that offer a little something for everyone, Little Yachty often leans more toward sleepy lounge act than good times Rock band. That doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable addition to summer, just a watered down and repetitive Yacht Rock experience that is better imbibed in pieces and not in one sitting. To cut to the chase, this is certainly not the best thing the band has ever done—a far cry from their Punkish roots—but it’s a promise that they will continue to chart their unique course through the musical seas even after all these years. Appreciating that Little Yachty heralds the return of Sugar Ray, Cryptic Rock give Sugar Ray’s Little Yachty 3.5 of 5 stars.