RJD2’s career since his bold instrumental hip-hop and heavily sampled debut Dead Ringer and sophomore effort Since We Last Spoke has been on the downhill in terms of genuine creativity of crazed patchwork cuts. His third album, The Third Hand, indicated he had strived for too much and he had lost everything that made him appealing. The myriad of issues that plagued it seemed to churn away any relative remembrance of his past works because of his own disastrous pop songwriting inability. Luckily his form has since steadily regained as evident by 2013’s More Is Than Isn’t, finally completing the puzzle that he had made for himself by branching into ambitious treacherous waters. To be fair, Dame Fortune isn’t quite as palatable or overly bombastic as anything he’s done before, but it sufficiently places itself in-between – wedged with then and now of where he’s found himself as an artist.
As said before RJD2 aspirations with his growth as a musician carried heavy missteps, but he has learned from them. For instance, “PF, Day One” would seem wholly misplaced, but its somber tone and changeover to the next sequence of the album is perfectly crafted. “Saboteur” stirs the depths of his soul compositions as it finally hits the sweet spot by track eight. While one could claim it seems like wandering, roundabout approach it would be incorrect. RJD2’s patience strikes a chord within most of Dame Fortune. Even if the Carpenter-esque intro “A Path Inward” has you wondering where this is headed, it is guided toward affectionate spaces indicated with “Your Nostalgic Heart and Lung” deep synth and drum and bass work that will be a bit of a surprise to many. It definitely waxes nostaglia with its hip-hop cymbal rush, but nothing more than a skillful play by the artist himself.
For all its positives, it has to be said that Dame Fortune never truly lifts off the ground because it just feels weighty. The bleak flatness in the inherited soul sound would be an easy escape, but it never quite overtly accepts it all in its entirety. RJD2 attempts push it another level by cutting through the past with the jarring “Up In The Cloud” that could be stripped from his first two works. Unfortunately, it never punches through the tough exterior, relying on a beginning and end chorus all too similar to the previous soul inspired movements. The same could be applied to “Band of Matron Saints,” which truly embraces what he’s after because of the excellent performance by Josh Krajcik and the willingness of RJD2 to push all in.
In the end, Dame Fortune is just a mellow mix of electronic playful ambiance and soul music to boot. It’s strange because it slightly missed the mark, but not by much in a few aspects. Despite the first half having a divided notion from the second in its straight soulful consideration, it never goes overboard as schism for the rest of the album.