While American Idol has launched the international careers of Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks, its variety show counterpart, America's Got Talent, has so far failed to produce anyone whose success has translated outside the confines of the show. Eighteen-year-old Alexis Jordan may be about to change all that. Signed to Jay-Z's StarRoc/Roc Nation label, her first single became a surprise U.K. Top Three hit in late 2010, while her debut album has been recorded with StarGate, the prolific Norwegian production team behind hits by Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Ne-Yo. It's a development, which is all the remarkable considering that Jordan never even made it to the finals, having been defeated by a clog-dancing group and a quick change act in the wildcard stages of the first series back in 2006. Her self-titled LP suggests the setback might have been a blessing in disguise, as rather than the karaoke-style treatment afforded to winners Bianca Ryan and Neal E. Boyd's respective debuts, its 11 tracks are a vibrant and inventive set of original songs which perfectly complement Jordan's impressively pure but powerful tones. Lead single "Happiness" is an effortlessly irresistible slice of chilled-out dance-pop which adds infectious humming and a gorgeous breezy vocal melody to the sampled backing of Deadmau5's progressive house tune "Brazil (2nd Edit)," "Good Girl" is an arms-in-the-air floor-filler featuring David Guetta-esque robotic synth riffs, hypnotic beats, and a bridge which sounds like it's about to burst into the Village People's "YMCA," while "High Road" is a convincing attempt at slinky retro electro-pop in the vein of Little Boots, '80s-inspired Hands. The assault on the dancefloor continues with the bouncy reggae of "Love Mist," the anthemic trance of "Hush Hush," and the seductive fusion of the techno and Latino rhythms of "Shout Shout," but unfortunately, a few obligatory ballads creep in to unnecessarily slow the tempo down. "Say That" is the kind of pedestrian R&B slow-jam that Mary J. Blige could knock out in her sleep; "The Air That I Breathe" is a plodding acoustic number which appears to lazily borrow the guitar hook from Extreme's "More Than Words," while "How You Like Me Now" is exactly the kind of non-descript midtempo track you'd expect from a talent show contestant. But strip away its MOR leanings and you're left with a pretty solid, upbeat debut which reveals that the cutesy Christina Aguilera soundalike we first saw five years ago has blossomed into a mature and self-assured vocalist who is more than capable of competing with the pop divas she once idolized.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien