Unexpected was the perfect title for Michelle Williams’ third solo album because the title defined her solo career pretty accurately up to that point. Her being the first member of Destiny’s Child to strike out on the solo artist path was unexpected as was her choice to make Gospel albums along with acting on Broadway. However, her success in both of those arenas was legitimate and deserving so it was expected that she would continue down that path.
Then she decided to, as the album title stated, do something “unexpected” and, as the lead single suggested, “break the dawn” – as in break the dawn of R&B meeting dance-pop and electronica. Using “dance music” as a descriptor often invokes thoughts of either throbbing techno beats or some kind of disco revival but Unexpected was neither. Teaming up primarily with Rico Love, the many shades of dance, electronica, pop and R&B on the album blended into one cohesive mix.
There were the requisite club-friendly dance tracks like “Hello Heartbreak”, “Private Party” and “Lucky Girl” designed for falling in love or dancing away the pain in the middle of the club along with the radio-ready synth-pop tracks like lead single “We Break the Dawn”, “Till the End of the World” and “Stop This Car” that harnessed the same urban undertones so many top-40 artists were successfully using to their advantage at the time. “Hungover”, the true centerpiece of the album, was a straight swagged-out R&B banger that should’ve become one of Michelle’s biggest hits while she flexed her pure pop appeal on “The Greatest” and “Thank U”.
While the album wasn’t perfect (that Flo Rida remix should’ve never happened and the cautionary tale “Too Young for Love” ended the album on a bum note), looking back almost a decade later makes it even clearer to see how ahead of its time the album truly was. It’s pointless to detail all the reasons why Unexpected should’ve, could’ve and would’ve propelled Michelle’s solo star even higher but credit must be given to her for taking such creative, bold, unexpected risks in her music and being unafraid to color outside the lines of what’s expected for a black singer in the mainstream. If only more R&B artists today were willing to buck the current trends accordingly and step outside the trap…
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