Amanda Blank

I Love You

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Leading up to the release of her major-label debut, there was little doubt that Amanda Blank was her own woman. A torrid rapper and inventive lyricist, she lit up the Baltimore club scene during 2005-2006, and her closing verse on Spank Rock's "Bump" provided a highlight to one of the best albums of 2006, YoYoYoYoYo. With so much talent on display already, the only concern leading up to the release of I Love You was whether her jump from featured artist to top billing could avoid the usual wide-distribution pitfalls. Unfortunately, despite a few great tracks and plenty of pounding productions, Blank hits a lot of familiar notes. Sure, she's more entitled to a Diplo and Switch production than virtually anyone else -- and she gets plenty of them here -- but many of them recycle an old motif. It's easy to see the roots of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" in her own "A Love Song," which is equally reflective and reliant on an '80s pop touchstone (here it's LL Cool J's "I Need Love"), and the single "Might Like You Better" doesn't do anything to improve on the Romeo Void song it tries to modernize. Elsewhere, she spends a lot of time with casual party sloganeering, recalling Santigold's hooky version of club music. (Great rappers should spend most of their time rapping, and Blank doesn't.) It's revealing that the best tracks here are productions from XXXChange, and the one where she sounds the most natural is the Spank Rock co-feature "Gimme What You Got." Instead of avoiding the trap of simply becoming the next M.I.A. or Santigold, she falls right in.

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