Album Review

Chrisette Michele, 'Epiphany'

May 11, 2009
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Chrisette Michele Epiphany
Island/Def Jam
ESSENTIAL "Blame It on Me"

To anyone who heard Chrisette Michele's underappreciated debut, "I Am," the grace, confidence, and versatility of this follow-up will certainly not come as a revelation. Newcomers, expect an epiphany indeed. Of the new wave of modern American R&B singers, Michele is the most compelling and commanding. This song cycle about a broken relationship and finding oneself is fluid and emotionally rich, the latter a rare quality in pop these days. While the material is strong, this is all about Michele's stylish but subtle vocalizing and its jazzy inflections and nuances. The Long Island-born singer is invested in each lyric, and she digs deep to find the center of each song. Almost all the tracks are produced by Chuck Harmony, who smartly keeps Michele front and center on the ballad-heavy set filled with just enough bounce. Two tracks anchor the disc, the outstanding "Blame It on Me" (as smart and soulful as breakup songs get) and "Porcelain Doll," a track that could turn into an anthem of self empowerment. Throughout Michele refuses to play the pop ingenue or wind-up doll - she's a woman and you deal with her on her own terms. Music fans would be crazy not to. (Out now)