Ryan Leslie — “Diamond Girl”

 

Released: 12.04.07

Peak: #95

“Diamond Girl” is the third and least instantly memorable hit song by that name. Hear just its first three notes and Seals and Crofts’ limp 1973 processed cheese slab will melt into your brain’s deepest mnemonic recesses. The unyielding vocal hook from the 1986 Nice n Wild freestyle track pounds its entrance into your memory: “You’re! My! Di-Mond Girl!” But Ryan Leslie’s sly debut single handily betters both, thanks to a killer synth trick that’s wholly of its time, and repeated ad infinitum–an extended, phased chord followed by an upward flight of notes along the keyboard.

Cassie’s original producer lacked the considerable buzz behind his solo move that accompanied The-Dream’s debut, but Ryan Leslie and Terius Nash are similar creatures of 21st century pop. They share an impresario’s affinity for the spotlight but lack the charisma to command it. A decade earlier, they might have been satisfied grunting approval on their protégés’ tracks, but each man’s talent and connections secured a shot at stardom that his personality alone would never made undeniable. Happily, for fans of meritocracy and R&B alike, both men made something of their opportunity. If you thought “Me & U” was as good as “Umbrella,” even though it wasn’t, you just might think “Diamond Girl” is better than “Shawty Is Da Shit,” which it is.

Leslie knows better than to overwhelm his prize synth hook with sonic distractions; he makes sparing use of the ugliest bass this side of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and a dramatic cymbal roll. He’s less adept at keeping his own personality out of the way. It’d be nice if the singer could tell his diamond girl just what makes her shine, rather than persistently selling himself. But at least Leslie improves upon the titular conceit his predecessors lazily accepted at face value: his lady’s not precious like a diamond, she’s worth claiming with a diamond ring. Not the most progressive of sentiments, sure, but just compare S&C’s dim “Oh my love, you’re like a precious stone,” or Nice n Wild’s “You fit right on my finger/ I’m so proud to have me in you/ I persist to enjoy all your gifts.” I mean, eww.

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