Cassie

Cassie

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By the time Cassie's first album was released in August 2006, her first single had been on the Billboard pop chart for nearly four months and reached nine million plays through her MySpace page. The page, set up in late 2005, was part of a strategy that sparked a lot of chatter and eventually landed the model-turned-vocalist on Diddy's Bad Boy label. With plenty of anticipation already in place, Diddy stepped aside, and allowed his new signing -- along with her musical partner, Ryan Leslie, a studio do-it-all with credits on songs by Britney Spears and Donell Jones -- to run her course. "Me&U," the decidedly unwholesome track that excited so many MySpace users, became one of the spring/summer hits of 2006, following the likes of Ciara's "Goodies" and Teairra MarĂ­'s "Make Her Feel Good" as a sexy, assertive single with an intricate and space-filled arrangement that doesn't batter the ears into submission. The looming synthesizer patterns, along with Cassie's upfront vocal, combine with an ice-cream-truck melody to give it a slightly twisted and threatening edge contained by none of its like-sounding predecessors. The second single, the snapping and swirling "Long Way 2 Go," is just as irresistible in its flippant playfulness. Cassie scolds a hopeless suitor with such cutting nonchalance -- she's basically swatting a fly -- that you can see her delivering the lines by cellphone as she eyes a display of designer shoes. As a vocalist, Cassie has enough character and ability to sell her material without fail. And there will never not be a need for a vocalist who doesn't handle each stage of a relationship as if her life depends on it.

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