First Hit #1: November 28, 1998
Lately is a gospel-inspired song, but I kind of wish it had more gospel in there. It’s got the church organ and the big vocal harmonies, and that’s good. But there’s also a bit of pandering to the popular musical movements in there as well, and that cuts the power of the song. Basically, there’s a synthesized beat that’s clearly trying to bring some contemporary hip-hop influence into Divine’s music, but it cuts what makes Divine unique. The vocal performances are great, this is a three woman choir that could easily carry the song on their own. They prove this multiple times, they prove it most effectively on a late-song vocal breakdown that goes almost instrument free. But that one instrumental element, while bringing it in line with popular trends, undermines the entire operation. It works to sap the uniqueness straight out of the song, since it’s not actually a particularly interesting variation on the idea and it’s just so blandly implemented. Divine would just work better with fewer elements to get in the way of their singing.