Jordin Sparks


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Jordin Sparks didn't get any traction until she received a boost from Chris Brown via their duet "No Air," the one moment on her 2007 eponymous debut that felt unquestionably modern, so it makes perfect sense that her second album,Battlefield, ditches almost all lingering American Idol pageantry for stylized pop and R&B pitched halfway between Rihanna (whose "S.O.S." is shamelessly rewritten here, with Shannon's "Let the Music Play" substituted for "Tainted Love") and Leona Lewis. That doesn't necessarily mean that Sparks is now better-suited for this sound -- she's still mannered and too eager to please -- merely that she's had success, enough of it to hire some of 2009's biggest hitmakers in the business, including T-Pain and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder. Most of these namebrands are recordmakers, not songwriters, so it's not a great surprise to find Battlefield bears a brittle production almost as combative as its title, all treble and bass and rhythmic hooks, where Jordin's voice is only another brick in the digital wall. This doesn't apply quite as strongly to the clutch of Sparks'collaborations grouped toward the end of the album -- all ballads, some with vaguely spiritual overtones such as "Faith," whose chorus inadvertently flirts with John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me" -- but for the first two-thirds of Battlefield, it's all a cool calculated assault where Jordin seems almost incidental to the creation of the sound. Because the sound is of paramount importance, this does succeed as pure radio-ready product, which is enough for Sparks to sustain her momentum if not enough to give her some kind of identity to build a career upon.

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