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Studio album by Maxwell
Released June 10, 1998
Recorded 1997-1998
Genre Neo soul[1]
Length 62:57
Label Columbia
Producer Maxwell, Stuart Matthewman
Maxwell chronology
MTV Unplugged

Embyra is the second studio album by American recording artist Maxwell, released on June 10, 1998, by Columbia Records. As on his 1996 debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, he collaborated with record producer and Sade collaborator Stuart Matthewman. A neo soul album, Embrya features heavy basslines, string arrangements, and an emphasis on groove over melodies. It has themes of love and spirituality.

Embrya sold more than one million copes and garnered Maxwell a new alternative fanbase, but confounded urban consumers and was panned by music critics.[2] The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).


With a lesser jazz emphasis than his debut album, Embrya continues the trend towards heavy basslines and string arrangements, and it focuses on themes such as love and spirituality. However, the album features more of an emphasis on groove than melodies.[3] Its production sound contains bassy, electronic and slight syncopated beats.[4] Maxwell has defined the album's title as "an approaching growing transition thought to be contained but destined for broader perception."[5]

Commercial performance[edit]

Embrya was released on June 10, 1998.[6] It sold more than one million copes and garnered Maxwell a new alternative fanbase, but confounded urban consumers.[2] On May 26, 1999, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[7]
Chicago Sun-Times 2.5/4 stars[8]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[9]
Entertainment Weekly B+[10]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[11]
Q 3/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[14]
Spin 7/10[3]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[15]

Embrya was panned by contemporary music critics.[2] Ann Powers of The New York Times called Maxwell "an expert seducer" and the music "the aural equivalent of lotion rubbed on one's back by someone interesting", but felt that the lyrics lack substance.[16] Greg Tate of Spin magazine said that the album "comes off as a tad New Agey, art-rock pretentious, emotionally calculated, and sappy."[3] Dream Hampton, writing in The Village Voice, said that the "listless and unfocused" songwriting does not redeem the "ridiculous, loaded song titles" and found the music "lazy": "The band drones along as if in some somnambulant session that never ends."[17] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau cited "Luxure: Cococure" as a "choice cut",[9] indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money".[18]

In a positive review, Connie Johnson of the Los Angeles Times viewed Maxwell's music as unique and the album as an improvement from his debut album, which was "somewhat derivative".[11] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine complimented its lush musical backdrops and found the songs "pretty wonderful, even though they're impossible to tell apart or to remember after they're done."[13] David Browne, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the album "beautiful R&B background music" and felt that, despite vague and pretentious lyrics, it serves as "the culmination of the retro-soul movement that began taking shape several years ago."[10] Amy Linden of Vibe called it "neo-soul via ambience" and said that "like smoke, Maxwell's love songs drift away, fading ever so seductively into the background, where they stay."[1]

Embrya was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, losing to Erykah Badu's Baduizm (1997).[19] In 1999, it won the Soul Train Music Award for Best Male Soul/R&B Album.[20] In a retrospective review for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that Maxwell "overstuffs his songs with ideas that lead nowhere" and called Embrya "a bit of a sophomore stumble, albeit one with promising moments."[7] Arion Berger, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), found the songs monotonous and called the album "unfocused and pretentious ... full of overwrought, underwritten songs with obscure, fancy titles revolving around a sort of sexual gnosticism."[14]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Maxwell (credited as Musze), excepted where noted.

  1. "Gestation: Mythos" [3:11]
  1. "Everwanting: To Want You to Want" [7:30]
  2. "I'm You: You Are Me and We Are You (Pt. Me & You)" [6:31]
  3. "Luxury: Cococure" [5:30]
  4. "Drowndeep: Hula" (Stuart Matthewman, Musze) [5:39]
  5. "Matrimony: Maybe You" [4:37]
  6. "Arroz con pollo" [2:55]
  7. "Know These Things: Shouldn't You" (Matthewman, Musze) [5:14]
  8. "Submerge: Til We Become the Sun" [6:24]
  9. "Gravity: Pushing to Pull" (Matthewman, Musze) [6:11]
  10. "Eachhoureachsecondeachminuteeachday: Of My Life" [5:51]
  11. "Embrya" [3:04]


Credits are adapted from Allmusic.[21]


Chart (1998) Peak
U.S. Billboard 200 3
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 2


  1. ^ a b Linden, Amy. "Review: Embrya". Vibe: 153–154. August 1998.
  2. ^ a b c Seyfu Hinds, Sewlyn (April 2001). "Inner Vision". Vibe (New York): 104–10. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Tate, Greg (August 1998). "Review: Embrya". Spin (New York): 136–7. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ Johnson Jr., Billy. "Embrya". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ Harrington, Richard. Maxwell's `Embrya,' In the Mood for Love. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2009-03-30.
  6. ^ a b "American album certifications – Maxwell – Embrya". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Review: Embrya. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-09-24.
  8. ^ Little, Rebecca et al. (July 12, 1998). "Spin Control". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 16, 2013.  (subscription required)
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (February 23, 1999). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Browne, David. Review: Embrya. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-09-24.
  11. ^ a b Johnson, Connie. Review: Embrya. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-09-24. (Star rating found at archived page)
  12. ^ "Review: Embrya". Q (London): 124. February 2002. 
  13. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob. "Review: Embrya". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  14. ^ a b Berger et al. 2004, p. 521.
  15. ^ Jones, Steve. "Review: Embrya". USA Today: June 30, 1998. Archived from the original on 2009-09-24. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  16. ^ Powers, Ann. Review: Embrya. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-09-24.
  17. ^ Hampton, Dream. Review: Embrya. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-09-24.
  18. ^ "Key to Icons". Robert Christgau. 2000. Archived from the original on November 23, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2012. 
  19. ^ 14th Annual Soul Train Award Winners allyourtv.com/awards/ March 6, 2000
  20. ^ "Embrya – Maxwell: Credits". Allmusic. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Embrya - Maxwell". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 


External links[edit]