A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend Gabe on the phone and excitedly told him I had just received my preview copy of the new Sinbad album for review. “Really?” he asked, with the flat tone of a guy who isn’t impressed.
“Yeah!” I said excitedly, visions of past Sinbad albums dancing in my head. I’m well-aware that Sinbad has become a punchline of sorts in the comedy world, mostly I assume because of the outfits he wore in past specials that seemed to be constructed of multi-colored Hefty bags. Although his wardrobe has become dated, I know a lot of people who look back on those past recordings fondly, reminiscing about how much they made them laugh. They made me laugh, too, and as a result I was looking forward to this new release.
“Sinbad?” Gabe asked and then added, “That can’t be good.”
I was genuinely surprised. “What? Why not? I’m excited!”
“Really?” Gabe muttered, “You think? It’s been too long.”
“But he was so funny,” I countered, “There’s no way he all of a sudden can’t be funny.”
“I don’t know, man, I don’t see how it can be any good.”
I could hear in Gabe’s voice that he felt bad for me. He was convinced this new project, “Make Me Wanna Holla,” was going to disappoint and his heart went out to the poor boy with too much optimism.
The good news is, it’s not the train wreck Gabe thought it would be. The bad news is….it ain’t Brain Damaged, either.
I remember Sinbad as a happy-go-lucky guy who paced the stage with a smile and a magnetic sense of joy. He still has that in a sense, but this is an older version of Sinbad and he doesn’t wear cranky cynicism well. When he touches on childhood, kindergarten, and banters back and forth with the 15-year old boy in the audience, the spark is still there. When he takes on politics and the economic system of Detroit, he swaps funny for angry, and it just feels….off.
Bill Cosby has grown disgruntled with age but has figured out how to work that into his persona. David Letterman has morphed into an old grump but he doesn’t care and it somehow adds to his edge. Sinbad as an angry older guy just…sounds like an angry older guy.
Sinbad tries to capture the energy of his younger days but his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. And hearing Sinbad scream the “n” word just doesn’t sit right. I’m not opposed to someone morphing from who they used to be, but this change doesn’t feel sincere. This is 6’5” Sinbad trying desperately to stay relevant and squeeze himself into a suit tailored to 5’2” Kevin Hart. Please, Sinbad, go back to the clothes you’re comfortable in. They may be out style, but they brought out the best in you.
There are a few bonus tracks that only add to the confusion. Without warning, a band and choir appear from nowhere and suddenly we’re in church. It’s not just a left turn, but a hardleft turn that comes out of nowhere. One minute Sinbad is ruminating on white people being lost in a bad black neighborhood and the next we’re singing along to the Rich Mullins song, “Awesome God.” The CD ends with what is basically a mini-revival tent service, complete with a revival tent Baptist comedian. It’s a gesture I appreciated but it really felt out of place on a comedy album.
This wasn’t the grand slam I hoped it would be but I haven’t lost faith in you, Sinbad. I’ll keep believing in you. But, please….please…prove my friend Gabe wrong the next time around.