Brooke Valentine

Chain Letter

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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman

Brooke Valentine and the people behind her could not have been any smarter when it came to seeking attention with the first single. In early 2005, production and grunts from Lil Jon, a guest verse from OutKast's Big Boi, and subject matter unlike anything else on the radio -- in this case, female fisticuffs, a very crunk-friendly topic -- was priceless. It was a bold move, too; not many female artists are willing to show their tough side right off the bat, if ever. As effective and unique as "Girlfight" is, it proves to only be a gateway to an album with a good number of chart-bound singles, none of which are quite as rowdy. Producers Jermaine Dupri, Bink!, Heatmakerz, Soul Diggas, and mentor/collaborator Deja (remember H-Town?) are due some of the credit, but Valentine comes off like a veteran full of fire and confidence, knowing all the hits of the past several years and how to leave a memorable impression while remaining contemporary. She does have quite a few disparate moods running throughout the album, which can be jarring on a couple occasions. "Cover Girl," a somber song led by acoustic guitar and churchy organ swells, is one of the album's few stumbling blocks. One look at any of the photos boldly displayed in the sleeve should tell you that it -- an "if I were only pretty" moment in which Valentine wonders what she has to do to attract a man -- has no business here. "I Want You Dead" makes up for it though, a demented revenge fantasy in which she does funny and gruesome things to a wrongdoing ex-lover. A debut that fulfills and promises at the same time, Chain Letter contains 40 faultless minutes of club tracks and a few minutes of seductive balladry. That's not bad for someone who put it all to bed before hitting the age of 20.

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