Album Review

Material stifles a powerful voice

July 20, 2009
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Jordin Sparks Battlefield
ESSENTIAL “Watch You Go’’

If you’ve heard “Battlefield,’’ the dismal first single from Jordin Sparks’s new album, you probably thought, “Didn’t Dr. Benatar diagnose love as a battlefield 30 years ago?’’ Somebody forgot to tell hack songwriter of the moment Ryan Tedder. No doubt the disc had to be better, right?

Saying yes would be faint praise because it couldn’t get worse. But this is nowhere near the knockout the 20-year-old pop star should have delivered. Don’t blame it on Sparks, who sings well and shows obvious signs of growing into her big voice (despite a continuing tendency to shout).

The problem is the songs. If these are the best Sparks had to choose from for such a crucial project, we surely don’t want to hear the rejects. Many of them, like the title track, are uninspired rehashes of things we’ve heard before. “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)’’ simply uses a chunk of Shannon’s hit as the driving force for the disc’s most upbeat tune. But didn’t Rihanna already steal that more imaginatively with “Please Don’t Stop the Music’’? Leave it to T-Pain to co-write the best track here, “Watch You Go,’’ slickly produced by Dr. Luke. Here’s your single.

Safe is only good in baseball, but in pop music it can be numbing, and such dull tunes like “No Parade’’ or “Let It Rain’’ find the singer trying to inject some life into music even she must realize is D.O.A. No one expects edginess, but a powerhouse voice like Sparks’s deserves something more to work with than these leftovers. (Out tomorrow) KEN CAPOBIANCO