LeAnn Rimes

I Need You

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LeAnn Rimes had been inching toward pop as the '90s grew to a close, but she truly lunged at the pop charts with the soundtrack to Coyote Ugly, providing the voice for Piper Perabo's star-struck, fledgling singer/songwriter. This was a prelude to 2001's I Need You, her first full-fledged pop album -- a crossover affair with more in common with Faith Hill's Breathe than Shania Twain's Come on Over. That means that its footing is squarely within adult contemporary pop, and it's heavy on ballads. Even when the tempo is kicked up a notch, as on "You Are" with its percolating drum machines, it's still mid-tempo AC pop. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially since she has a couple of good songs here (notably "I Need You," "But I Do Love You," and the Coyote leftover, "Can't Fight the Moonlight"), but it's not the most natural move in the world, either. Rimes' impressive voice sounds restrained in this setting, too self-consciously mature. In a nutshell, that's the problem with I Need You -- it's a teenager attempting to make a thirtysomething album. That she occasionally succeeds is a testament to her vocal talents and the skills of her producers, but it shouldn't be surprising that it also feels awkward for large stretches, never quite becoming as alluring as Breathe, because this is a sound that she needs to grow into to be totally convincing.

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