elly is for the children. Or, more appropriately, Nelly is for everyone. He’s never made any pretenses otherwise, luckily, so arguments veering towards the thorny authenticity issue really never leave the ground. And if they did, the song devoted to woman’s toes, “Pretty Toes” would deflate it immediately.
As such, Nelly has been, and should be, judged solely on his pure pop appeal. And the aforementioned “Pretty Toes”, featuring Jazze Pha and TI does well in that regard. It rides a lithe beat, a liquid guitar and a firm bass—a breezy track that would sound just as comfortable on a Nappy Roots album as it does here. “My Place”, which follows it, doesn’t fare as well, what with its horribly sentimental sample and an overextended Nelly trying to match notes with Jaheim. Perhaps it’s just the fact that it lasts a long five-and-a-half minutes, stopping any potential momentum that had been built up from the opening Neptunes number (sounds like “Change Clothes”, don’t bother) and “Pretty Toes”.
Nelly works with collaborators on no less than seven of the eleven tracks here, like any good pop musician slightly bereft of ideas should. But it’s his non-collaborative songs that work just as well, if not better. “Paradise” utilizes a finger-picked guitar sample to smooth effect, while “N Dey Say” works in the oft-sampled Spandau Ballet’s “True” into the mix. Both are songs that lyrically deal with hope and the promise of something better and while both aren’t anywhere close to something like “Lose Yourself” they’re effective nonetheless.
The final two collaborations of note are with surprising guests: Tim McGraw and Anthony Hamilton. “Over and Over” with McGraw is a treat, mixing Nelly’s more sedate side with McGraw’s twanging guitar and vocals. Considering Nelly’s predilection for country, it’s not such a surprise, though. And it comes off more natural than, say, a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz. Hamilton works his vocal magic on “Nobody Knows”, the most sonically inventive track here. Orchestral stabs and MIDI strings interweave uneasily, and ultimately beautifully, with a beat on par with “Still Fly”.
Unfortunately, there’s a problem. All of the pop thrills mentioned above? Minimal at best. In fact, the idea of Tim McGraw and Nelly or Anthony Hamilton and Nelly is, honestly, more surprising than what they actually sound like. Sadly, Suit, is exactly what it purports to be: the business-side of a duo of albums. And, in the world of pop, there’s nothing worse than sounding like business as usual.