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Jordin Sparks (Deluxe Version)

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Album Review

Partway through the sixth season of American Idol, Jordin Sparks pulled out a heated, melodramatic interpretation of "I (Who Have Nothing)," a riveting performance that helped the spunky teenager pull apart from the bland pack. Until that song, Sparks had seemed like little more than an enthusiastic amateur, a teenager who loved to put on a show, but that rendition of the Ben E. King classic revealed a flair for drama and subsequent weeks revealed that she took direction well, absorbing the judges' criticisms and attempting something a little different with each passing week. This separated her from her two main competitors, the beat-boxing Blake Lewis, whose vocals always took a backseat to his style, and Melinda Doolittle, the former backup vocalist whose reliability was a liability, as she never ever seemed to be challenged. Sparks surprised by living up to those challenges — she didn't always thrive, but she always strived, so she provided a rooting interest and the one real dramatic story line in a season painfully lacking in any kind of intrigue. She was the one contestant with a character arc, plus she appealed to the show's core constituent of teens because still seemed like a teenager, totally wrapped up the excitement of it all. When she won the title, it was like she was crowned Homecoming Queen.

All this makes for fine, not great, reality TV, but everything that made Jordin Sparks succeed on TV works against her on record. That energy, that enthusiasm, that eagerness to perform was all mildly ingratiating when seen on a weekly basis, as it made her relatable, either for the teens who followed her, or for older viewers who saw her as a daughter or a kid sister, but they're all ingredients that make for a pop star with almost no presence. If anything, the familiarity of Idol works against her, as her desperate-to-please persona is so deeply ingrained in her identity that any shift in music on Jordin Sparks can't help but be seen as the work of her producers, not her. To be fair, that's the way a lot of mainstream pop and R&B works, but having Jordin Sparks be so devoted to modern R&B — equal parts Beyoncé and Rihanna — feels entirely producer-driven, as Sparks never showed a flair for modern music on American Idol. She always favored the big, brassy numbers, almost never indulging in the sleek sound of modern R&B, even stumbling disastrously on No Doubt's "Hey Baby." Sparks may not have shown flair for this sound, but given her youth and vocal abilities, there almost was no other place to put her: there was a possibility of molding her as a High School Musical wannabe, but that would have been short-sighted, tying her to the moment, whereas an R&B makeover would at least suggest the possibility of a long-term career. Always happy to please, Jordin followed this path and she, as always, is eager enough to perform that she doesn't embarrass herself, yet she doesn't quite feel right singing over such stylized modern tracks. The tracks themselves sound good — particularly those that crib heavily from early-'80s Prince, as in "Young and in Love" and "Shy Boy" — but they're crying out a vocalist who would have some fun singing over these beats, somebody who would inject them with some mischief or sexiness instead of just being happy to be here.

Jordin never quite sells any of these songs, even when she's belting out big ballads, songs designed to showcase her range but that wind up showcasing her youth, particularly on the ludicrous "Beautiful" rewrite, "God Loves Ugly." She's not a seasoned singer so she never seems to get inside the lyric, she never delivers them with nuance instead of power. This is a problem on the R&B cuts too, but on the ballads — which take up roughly half of the record — this flaw is more prominent as she's pushed to the forefront to give the kind of vocal gymnastics that are her comfort zone. On Idol, all this unformed youthfulness was endearing, but on this debut she just seems green, not quite ready for the big leagues she's been pushed into. [BMG's 2008 Japanese edition included one bonus track.]

Customer Reviews

'Jordin Sparks' mixes positivity with pop

What kind of album do you get when you give a 17-year-old powerhouse singer an assortment of catchy hooks and well-written lyrics? American Idol-winner Jordin Sparks’ self-titled effort, that’s what. Since wetting fans’ appetites with the Stargate-produced “Tattoo” in August, Sparks is looking to inch her way into the pop music scene with her debut. Although not every track on ‘Jordin Sparks’ is worthy of the teen sensation’s vocals, the vast majority are. Obviously, lead single “Tattoo” is a standout thanks to its masterful production, but where Sparks truly shines is the ballad “Permanent Monday.” She uses her signature emotional vibrato and power notes on this Christina Aguilera-esque lovesick track. “Monday” could easily dominate the Adult Contemporary circuit if given the chance. Where Sparks has the hottest potential hit on her hands is her duet with Chris Brown, “No Air.” The production on “Air” is comparable to anything Timbaland could whip up, and the bridge is one of the busiest, most beautiful “disasters” ever heard because the two teens’ vocals harmonize perfectly despite the complexity. Another gem on ‘Sparks’ is “Freeze,” as its instrumentation bears a striking resemblance to Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right.” Sparks offers an interesting scenario on “God Loves Ugly,” as she takes a stand against discrimination against people not seen as “ideal-looking.” The lyrics on “Ugly” are the best on the entire album, and really strikes a chord no matter what the listener thinks of their body type. The album also provides a variety of Top 40-ready, catchy mid- to up-tempo tracks like “Now You Tell Me,” “One Step At a Time,” and “Just For the Record,” which are all harmless and age-appropriate for Sparks. “Next to You” is comparable to something an early Mariah Carey would record, and showcases Sparks’ lower register better than any other track on the album. Sparks’ ‘Idol’ coronation song “This Is My Now” makes an appearance as a bonus track, which together with the sleep-inducing, tedious “See My Side” create a few speed bumps on the album. But the two tracks that have no business being included on ‘Sparks’ are juvenile “Shy Boy” and juvenile-er “Young and In Love.” Sparks’ voice is rendered unrecognizable thanks to the overused synthesizers and the loud, obnoxious 80s’ beats drag the tracks to the lowest of lows. To say these songs deserved to be on label-mate Britney Spears’ latest album ‘Blackout’ would be considered a low blow. Thankfully these disappointments are countered by Sparks’ superb performances on the majority of the album, which set the foundation for her still very young career.

Jordin Spark's Debut...Big????

Honestly, I thought Jordin was going to be just like Taylor Hicks. But after hearing this...I am shocked and SO proud of Jordin. I never would have thought she had it in her! Tattoo- I thought it was a safe song to release...but I know Jordin had more in her 9/10 One Step At a Time- Such a great slow song. 10/10 No Air- Honestly. Did ANYONE expect this?!!!! Chris and Jordin together is the best of both worlds. Great song! 10/10 Freeze- Slow and peacefull...but the chorus is a bit weird, but ok. Good song overall. 8/10 Shy Boy- One of Jordin's few fast paced songs. It's also a very week song. It's okay, but it's not top 10 material...probably top 40. 7/10 Now You Tell Me- Kinda familliar to Freeze and No Air...not much though. But it's still a decent song. 8/10 Next to You- I LOVE this!! Such a great love song. Top 10 for sure! 10/10 Just for the Record- Anyone else sence the early Mariah Carey in her??? Good song! 9/10 Permanent Monday- Decent. But not spatacular (sp?). 8/10 Young and In Love- Such a catchy song. Really Great! 10/10 See My Side- Hmm... sounds like a childrens lullaby (sp?) but it's so calming...See (see) my (my) Side. 9/10 God Loves Ugly- haha, love the title. 8/10 This is My Now- Cheezy but good. Ha, Miss. American Idol's debut single is catchy but not powerful. 8/10

Fantastic

After Jordins lengendary appearence on American Idol, and her victory in the end at the age of 17, she delivers her debut self titled album. I wasn't expecting much, because american idols now a days aren't so great. . But Jordin brings her American Idol game to a new level with this cd. She proves her self great with this great mix of Rihanna and Beyonce flavors, with her own new style as well. Some claimed tattoo as the new irreplaceable. Both incredible, and I expect Jordin to go far in the industry, and eventually will erase her idol image. She was destined to be a BIG star. This cd is worth every penny. Don't just judge it poorly because she is an American Idol. ps You WILL be seeing this girl around for a LONG time.

Biography

Born: December 22, 1989 in Phoenix, AZ

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Jordin Sparks may have been the youngest American Idol when she won the title on the reality show's sixth season, but the Glendale, AZ, resident had already packed plenty of accomplishments into 17 years. The daughter of Phillippi Sparks, former left cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys and former defensive back for the New York Giants, Sparks had no formal vocal training, but showed a flair for singing while still a toddler and was drawn to performing of all kinds at an early age. By her early teens,...
Full Bio
Jordin Sparks (Deluxe Version), Jordin Sparks
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