Mario – D.N.A.
3 stars out of 5
Mario is one of the underrated young R&B artists of this generation, and at times I feel like it’s mostly due to the material he chooses, not because he lacks talent or vocal skills. He seeks to rectify that this time around on his 4th album D.N.A.
Why? Songs like “The Hardest Moment” where he seemingly channels an early Michael Jackson vibe and “Soundtrack to My Broken Heart” where he tackles a song that Maroon 5 could easily do. He also keeps it urban just enough to slice off some of the edge of his “roughness” without being too braggadocios on joints like “Break Up” with the ubiquitous Gucci Mane (and unfortunately Sean Garrett) and “Emergency Room” in which guest Rihanna doesn’t take all of his shine.
There are few missteps overall on this album, though it does veer into sappy ballad territory a couple of times, though even then Mario’s voice shines but it just gets buried in mediocre attempts at crossover appeal. My personal favorite is the Ludacris-assisted “Get Out”, which contains enough bile and bite to make you really feel like you know WHO they are talking about. The syncopation and production on this joint makes it instantly memorable, a tactic which Mario uses often on this album (see “Stuttering” as well).
There’s something for everyone on this album though. It’s not as tight as I had hoped it would be in terms of sequencing and song choice, but overall it’s a pretty good evolution for Mario. It’s out today.
More reviews after the jump!
N’Dambi – Pink Elephant
2.5 stars out of 5
N’Dambi, indie soul seductress and one-time backup singer for Erykah Badu has dropped her debut major label album after dropping two critically acclaimed solo albums independently. Pink Elephant seemingly can’t seem to break past a laid back yet sturdy soul vibe that is in place the whole album — you want N’Dambi to get mad, swear, throw something and just GO for it, but…she doesn’t.
Nonetheless, her voice is a husky instrument which she yields softly yet strongly throughout the album. She’s a master storyteller, and her album is chock full of gems for you to sit back and listen to. Like the songs “L.I.E” and “Nobody Jones” being perfect examples. First single “Can’t Hardly Wait” is lacking the oomph it needs to really make her standout amongst such colleagues as a Ledisi, but it’s still a potent mix of slinky vocals and…curse words: “Still I’m f**kin’ with you” she says without shame.
All this leads you to believe the afro’ed soul singer is holding back vocally throughout this album, and it’s a feeling that never quite goes away. But if you like soul and stories, check this joint. It’s out in stores now.
All-4-One – No Regrets
2 out of 5 stars
The main redeeming quality about this album is that All-4-One seriously still have vocal chops. No lie. It makes you wonder what would have happened if they’d gotten some better material! The best songs on the album give you a peek into the greatness that could have been, in my opinion. Make no qualms about it though — their harmonies really give younger groups like Day26 a run for their money, though they have the benefit of time on their sides obviously (not that that is helping people like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston vocally, in comparison).
The album’s major misstep was having the production handled primarily in-house by Jamie Jones (group member) and his production team, The Heavyweights. It leads to an incredibly similar sounding album unfortunately. The production comes off as being a copy of all the Top R&B songs that are hits right now. The excellent “My Child” however is one song that could get spins after the initial disappointment, heartfelt delivery and all. The vocal a capella stylings of “You Don’t Know Nothing” take you back to 90′s and is actually a cover. But — their voices shine on this song, just as I mentioned in the beginning.
A valiant effort but I do “regret” that they made the moves they did make in the creation of this album. It could have been better, voices aside.