Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway

As the daughter of R&B legend Donny Hathaway and a graduate of Berklee College of Music, the 21-year-old Lalah Hathaway had a superlative pedigree that helped elevate her eponymous debut from dozens of other similar albums from that era. “Baby Don’t Cry” and “Heaven Knows” are two of the best R&B tracks of the late '80s and early '90s. Hathaway was effortlessly attuned to the sonic innovations of Prince and Janet Jackson, but her virtuosic and organic-sounding voice kept the music grounded. She was young and hip but had an authenticity rarely seen in young singers, who are often sterilized by the music industry. For all its contemporary flair, the album is frequently jazzy, as on “Somethin’” and “Smile.” Hathaway’s lithe phrasing is a perfect foil to the album’s tectonic beats. Even on the simmering slow jams “I’m Coming Back” and “I Gotta Move On,” the delicacy of her voice works against the molten groans of a subatomic bassline.

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