Fiji had always been a lovers rock mystic, and as I never much cared for the subgenre, I never got into the Polynesian soul-man who was born in Fiji and moved to Hawaii (hence his name). For various reasons, I’ve now come into contact with lovers rock with an open ear. So, listening through the epic Collection: 50th State Of Mind I realized what I’d been missing. And clearly, what Fiji mapped out artists like J Boog and The Green have followed.
Now, Fiji does suffer from love song cliché, and several songs out of 50 fall to the wayside- cheesy, corny, ridiculous lyrics over uninspired and sparse reggae instrumentation. In these moments, the only thing that saves the songs are Fiji’s incredible, impeccable voice, as on “Riddim of Life”, where he suggests, “I start to think/ if we only knew/ making love is like a honeydew.” Oh, seriously?
That being said, we have a lot of songs to work with here. Two discs’ worth of unreleased singles, hits, and more, this collection is able to span a career and an amazing amount of talent. All the songs hang on tight musical precision, even when the love song lyrics get in the way. Take “Sweet Darlin’”, “Did You Know”, and “Come On Over”. All these songs are sexy, sexy tracks. Close your eyes and you can see the island winds tussling the silk curtains on the veranda overlooking the evening ocean. He really paints a picture.
Disc II reserves space for the more political and spiritual side of Fij. On “Warrior of Love”- a fantastic track- he croons, “The people need a little love sometimes… It’s the kind that one would share brother to brother.” Then, on “Rise and Stand” Fiji offers one of his most roots reggae songs: “We are fighting for our rights now/ because there’s too much corruption in the world today.” It’s heady and fierce. “We Don’t Roll” packs a punch and is one of my favorites on the album: “We don’t roll with backbiters.”
Plus, songs like “Smokin Session”, “Why You”, “Inemlament”, and “Stone Cold” are classics.
So many of the songs contain perfectly constructed vocal harmonies, Fiji’s rollicking baritone, and a groove that’s too succinct to ignore. Also, sometimes props must be given to the masters, and some people build careers on love songs because they’re great at making them, not because they’re doing something original. Fiji is a master, down to the last of all the songs, “Satisfied”. He simply breathes: “Breakfast in bed with champagne/ You’re the reason why/ making love is a beautiful thing.”
Yuck. Only, he owns it. And I find myself hearing the songs of Collection: 50th State Of Mind replaying in my head. I find myself rushing to the stereo to put on a groove that’s been itching me all day. So, there’s something timeless and awesome about Fiji and about this collection. Don’t be afraid to fall in deep.