Regina Belle

Believe in Me

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Recording the theme for Disney's Aladdin didn't have the same effect on Regina Belle's career as Beauty and the Beast had for Celine Dion's. With the exception of a pair of Top 40 pop hits ("Make It Like It Was," "If I Could") Belle's success was confined to the realm of R&B. Change was in the air, however, for her fifth and strongest release, Believe in Me. Aside from switching to MCA from Columbia and co-writing four of the songs herself, Belle manages to utilize slick, hip production and update her sound without forgetting the most important element: strong hooks and well-written tunes. Eric "E-Smooth" Hicks provides the production backdrop for eight of the album's tracks, giving Belle the strongest rhythmic push her music has ever had. After several easy-listening songs in her career, it's refreshing to hear her loosen up on the radio-ready likes of "Don't Let Go," "Baby Love," and the title track. Her ballads are also more R&B-flavored than ever, and Belle gives some of the laziest, sexiest vocals of her career on "I Got It" and "Come See About Me." Belle even recognizes that great production doesn't always have to be cluttered, illustrated on "I Gotch U" (written and produced by her brother, Bernard Belle; talent clearly runs in the family) and "Teach Me How to Live," both of which seduce in a gorgeously minimal setting. Another refreshing element is song length; while a lot of R&B music tends to run on for five minutes or more, only the final cut, "Be in Love Again" (coincidentally, the album's blandest composition), clocks in at that length; the rest of the songs are in the four-minute range or shorter, resulting in a breezy effect that inspires repeat listenings. Even a couple of less interesting pop tunes ("Never Should Have Let You Go," "Be in Love Again") aren't enough to weigh this project down. Filled with memorable hooks and irresistible grooves, Believe in Me finds Regina Belle at the top of her game.

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