Just before he set out on his most recent tour, the R&B/soul/funk/rock ‘n’ roll recording artist Cody ChesnuTT felt a little twinge in the back of his throat. After his first tour stop in L.A., he knew he had caught the bug that was going around. By the time he got to Portland, he was full-on sick. Many of us here at OPB (i.e., me) were getting a bit nervous that the singer would have to cancel his specially arranged live opbmusic/KMHD Session.
But he didn’t. Despite being under the weather, ChesnuTT captivated a small crowd of fans in the opbmusic studio with a set of songs from Landing on a Hundred, his first album in the past 10 years.
ChesnuTT released his last album, The Headphone Masterpiece, in 2002. Produced with a 4-track recorder in his home studio, the album contained a whopping 36 tracks that spanned two discs. Though critics were largely complimentary, due to the sheer volume of music, it was difficult to identify a single track upon which the album could really hang its hat. Songs like “Look Good In Leather” garnered attention because of playfully self-indulgent, quirky lyrics and a low-budget video which was on sporadic rotation on MTV. But the aesthetic of the video and the unapologetic swagger of the song’s lyrics did more to brand ChesnuTT as a novelty act, rather than as the musically gifted artist many know him to be.
Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson of The Roots reached out to ChesnuTT following the debut, which led to a collaboration and re-visioning of one song from Masterpiece, “The Seed.” The new version, “The Seed 2.0,” was the first single on The Roots’ 2003 album, Phrenology. The song’s video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, and Pitchfork listed the song among its 500 best songs of 2000s. Since then, however, any other work from ChesnuTT has been missing in action.
But now ChesnuTT is back with Landing on a Hundred, a pristine and soulful collection of songs that recall the golden age of R&B. Gone (for the most part) are the overly flamboyant song lyrics and overstated hubris of his first effort. In their place are masterfully composed songs which deliver messages of atonement, sacrifice and social accountability. Instead of celebrating the consumer culture of materialism, ChesnuTT denounces it in songs like “Chips Down” and “What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next).”
The new album also in some ways contradicts previous songs like “Look Good in Leather,” making it clear that over the last decade ChesnuTT has become a different person. “Love is More Than a Wedding Day” is a testament to his marriage and to fidelity, but also the challenges facing relationships and the necessary sacrifice required to maintain and nourish them.
When ChesnuTT arrived at the opbmusic studio, we rolled out the musical red carpet to support a one-of-a-kind performance through a collaboration between OPB and a 10-piece string ensemble comprised of members of the Portland State University orchestra. Along with ChesnuTT and his tour pianist Alvin Giles Jr., they performed a live, acoustic string performance of “Chips Down” with a rousing arrangement that was faithful to the original recording, but added a certain presence that was palpable in the room.
You can get a sense of the performance from the video above, and then check out the full opbmusic session with Cody ChestnuTT.