Did Jamie out-Foxx himself in musical comeback?

By Quinton J. Hobson

Jamie Foxx tries to make his point with the release of Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses.
Jamie Foxx tries to make his point with the release of Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses.

Actor and comedian Jamie Foxx could not have possibly chosen a more appropriate time to attempt a musical comeback.

After five years away from the recording studio, during which time he focused primarily on his acting career, Foxx released his fifth studio album Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses in mid-May.

March, April and May have been nothing short of eventful for the mutli-hyphenated actor-comedian-singer-songwriter-rapper, to say the least.

Foxx, who seldom returns to doing stand-up nowadays ever since establishing himself as a bankable Hollywood actor, first felt the wrath of the media when he fueled controversy following the hosting of the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards in March, during which he took aim at the ongoing gender transformation of retired Olympian Bruce Jenner, which did not sit particularly well with Jenner’s supporters or the LGBT community in general.

Only managing to fan the flames even further, Foxx was soon widely accused of butchering the American national anthem The Star Spangled Banner when he commemorated the highly anticipated Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match in early May; the media was quick to dub it one of the anthem’s worst renditions in performance history.

On May 5, Foxx appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to accomplish three main things: defend his national anthem performance – he claims to have been overwhelmed by the arrangement’s bombastic organ accompaniment – promote his album and announce his latest film, in which he is slated to portray retired professional boxer Mike Tyson.

After treating the comedian and her faithful audience to an earful in the form of a detailed rundown of his entire music career, from his early days as an obscure young actor on In Living Colour to his Oscar-winning impersonation of musician Ray Charles in Ray (2004) to finally his chart-topping collaboration with rapper Kanye West “Gold Digger” – complete with the audience chiming in to rap the song’s famous “Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger but she ain’t messin’ with no broke” hook (the clean version, of course, for daytime TV) – Foxx gave an impromptu performance of one of the songs from his album.

All of this took place within a 25-minute segment – DeGeneres’ guests typically occupy 10- to 15-minute segments – what artists refer to as shameless self-promotion.  In the words of country singer Dolly Parton, “Never turn up your nose at free publicity.”

At 47, Foxx, of all people, knew that returning to music at this point in his career would have its risks but as it turns out three months under the glaring television telescope unfortunately did little to help him as Hollywood kicks off to a slow start.

Despite being marketed as Foxx’s most romantic work to date, critics aren’t quite feeling the love. Reviews of the LP remain mixed at best. Billboard, which in the past has been quite supportive of Foxx’s musical endeavors, damned it as a “disjointed outing” as it continues to underperform.  Although they do not deny Foxx’s talent as a singer, jokingly admitting that Hollywood is an improvement over The Star Spangled Banner, Billboard attributes several reasons to its disappointing release.

AllMusic accuses Foxx of not allowing his music to age alongside him; he continues to attempt to deliver an album of aggressive club hits reminiscent of his younger self, while enlisting the help of younger, more prominent artists such as Chris Brown and Pharrell Williams.

Meanwhile, The New York Times completely lambasted the album, writing, “Jamie Foxx doesn’t need this – at this point, his music career is mainly a vanity project, a lie he’s trying to keep up, and not even an interesting one.”

Perhaps Foxx’s timing was simply miscalculated but it’s likely to be a few more years before the actor returns to the studio once again.