Pandemics, protests, the bitter sting of insular politics – all of these elements have come together to give us the craziest start to a new decade anyone could have ever imagined, but in that spirit, Ronnue is pushing the envelope with his sound and keeping up with the wild times we’re living in as he releases “That’s the Way Love Goes” this fall. Not many artists follow-up an Album of the Year Award-winning record with a cover song, but for Ronnue, it actually makes a bit of sense why he would be dropping a loose jam to Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” in response to the affection he got for Introduction 2 Retro-Funk. In this single and its music video, he calls for us to drift back nearly thirty years ago, to the breaking point between a new era in R&B history and the swelling bubble of new jack swing back in 1993, his vocal serving as the only time machine we need to return to the decade of plaid and powerful synth harmonies. It’s at this point that he gives the composition just the sort of modern update it’s been needing, and makes it rather difficult for anyone listening to turn down the volume. 

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The first thing I noticed about “That’s the Way Love Goes” when I sat down to review its melodies just this past weekend was the simplicity of the relationship between the percussive component in the mix and Ronnue’s lead vocal, which is far more efficient than it was at any point in Introduction 2 Retro-Funk. We get no spacing, no surreal gaps in the groove – this is all meat and potatoes R&B here, with a slamming bottom-end that compensates for the lack of sampling in the big picture.

The video is a little DIY by comparison, but it’s working because of the swagger it offers from the man of the hour himself. Other than the slightly compressed feel to Ronnue’s voice (which lasts no longer than ten seconds closer to the conclusion of the song than the start), everything here sounds intentionally stylized to imply a sonic depth typically found in live performances exclusively. I can’t wait to hear what it feels like in person, no matter how long that wait might have to be. 

There’s still some room for him to improve and continue evolving more than he already has in the past few years, but I don’t believe you have to be a professionally-trained music critic to appreciate and understand the idea Ronnue has coming into his new work. “That’s the Way Love Goes” is a tough song to cover – more so than a lot of the other tracks in the Janet Jackson discography – but he doesn’t sound shaken by what he’s tasked himself with here at all. There are a lot of ways he could have gone about this most recent project, but with his trusted producer Roc Phizzle at his side, Ronnue broaches a classic cover with the right tools to make it a contemporary hit. 

Michael Rand 

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