Ari Lennox Age/sex/location

The Dreamville singer’s second album, “Grown, Sexy, and Horny on Main,” chases pleasure without sacrificing self-love.

Both the lavender incense during a successful ladies’ night in and the sexual closeness after a wonderful date night are brought to mind by Ari Lennox’s crisp, velvety voice. Her music’s sensual flare draws inspiration from a long line of Black women neo-soul musicians who emphasized their sexual urges on the path to self-acceptance in the 1990s and early 2000s. Lennox’s unique style of neo-soul finds freedom in the flesh by drawing on Erykah Badu’s philosophical musings and Jill Scott’s jazz-infused tension.

Shea Butter Baby, the DC native’s 2019 full-length debut, emanated the perfume of desire while embracing the autonomy of
a young single woman attempting to grasp her value beyond sex. The DC native’s 2016 EP Pho used the nostalgic flare of ’70s R&B
to portray the ecstasy of having her carnal demands satisfied. Age/sex/location, Lennox’s second album, replaces the clichéd depictions of passion and romantic insecurity with a steamier, sexier mix of songs that further her search for self-acceptance.

The most assured-sounding album to date has been characterized by Lennox as “the transitional gap before my present eat, pray, love journey”—a corny but honest description. Lennox’s anger with not getting the attention she wants was underlined in Shea Butter Baby, but she is now more motivated to show herself the same love. Age/sex/location provides a rich study of what it really means to be grown and attractive since it is situated in the transitional zone between the want for external validation and the assurance needed not to need it. Lennox pushes the boundaries of her upper range as she affirmatively chooses to enter a relationship that will only provide momentary satisfaction on the groovy, upbeat “Waste My Time,” co-written by British singer and producer MNEK. “Waste my time/Get on my line/’Cause I got the time to waste,” she commands.

Lennox spends most of the song exerting her authority in recognizing what she doesn’t want, therefore it is the only time we see her engage in an unsustainable affair just because she wants to. She performs the line “Young Black lady approachin’ 30 with no partner in my bed/Cannot settle, I got standards” on the bluesy song “POF,” which also features J. Cole’s background vocals. The comical duet-skit “Boy Bye, ” in which Lucky Daye plays a sincere suitor who is unsuccessful in courting a skeptic named Lennox, sounds like a modern remake of Erykah Badu’s 1997 hit “Next Lifetime.” Lennox sings “Blocking You” as she pleads for seclusion to regain her inner calm. Her voice floats over groovy guitar chords and dreamy synthesizers. I’m blocking you everywhere. On earlier albums, Lennox spoke about self-doubt in relationships and sex positivity as though a love relationship were necessary for survival (see “Whipped Cream”). She is now beginning to realize that it isn’t.

When Lennox really dives into the vivid specifics of her sensory delights, the finest age/sex/location moments happen. Her ability to use her voice to depict the heights of physical joy is unmatched, but it is less prevalent here than in prior albums. Her honeyed tone eloquently captures the desire she feels hearing a lover’s voice over the phone in the outstanding “Mean Mug,” which is finished with a seductive trumpet solo. She sings, “Voice noticing daily/Vocal caressing my dear valley.” When the long-distance connection on “Mean Mug” turns into an in-person night of piercing moans and musical orgasms, Lennox and Chlöe seem energized to find just how freaky they can go. The tension culminates on “Leak It,” a heaven-sent vocal pairing between Lennox and Chlöe.

On the song “Stop By,” Lennox’s expert vocal evocations of her horny-on-the-main impulses stumble. Her voice blends in with the backdrop. However, the album’s overwhelming confidence outweighs the slower sections. Lennox pledges to treat herself
with the same love and respect she wants from her relationships in the closer, “Queen Space,” which features Summer Walker. The song, which is supported by soothing keys, expertly blends Walker’s trap-R&B with Lennox’s old-school soul, showcasing them as major figures in their respective genres. Lennox updates traditional R&B stylings for a modern audience regardless of age, sex, or region. She sounds confident and at ease as she performs her sexiest and most assured songs to date.

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