Before its release, Lyfe Jennings announced his fourth album would also be his final album. That’s a heartbreaker for those who seek out positive, mature soul music, but I Still Believe makes sense as an end point. The grit and despair of his debut, Lyfe 268-192, has given way to hope and warmth, plus the prison number referenced in that 2004 album’s title seems like a distant memory since every lyric here comes from a man seemingly reformed. As such, he’s not as connected to the dirty streets as he used to be, and his references to pain and suffering are more observational, although he most definitely “feels” it all. Take the highlight “Statistics,” which uses percentages and cold hard facts to explain that a good man isn’t just hard to find, they’re almost extinct. When the uplifting, gospel-inspired “I Still Believe” sings the praises of family and peace, you can tell it’s because Lyfe has recently benefitted from such wholesome things, and there’s every indication that the ending relationship discussed in the memorable slow jam “Busy” will leave the singer heartbroken, not devastated. Fans from the early days might miss Jennings’ vivid descriptions of life’s seedy side, but shifting from tears of sadness to tears of joy has made for a compelling arc over four albums. With the soulful music and honest lyrics as strong as ever and all the wisdom he gained on the streets intact, it’s all a matter of how much you appreciate happy endings.
David Jeffries, Rovi