Zaho

Dima

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More than it seems on the surface, Dima is the full-length solo album of Zaho, a contemporary R&B vocalist closely affiliated with hitmaker Phil Greiss, who gives the album a Timbaland-esque production style. While an abundance of contemporary R&B releases in 2008 aped the production style of recent Timbaland-helmed albums such as Nelly Furtado's Loose (2006), Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006), and the star-studded various-artists collection Shock Value (2007), this one is different. Not only is it sung in French by an Algerian-born québécoise from Montreal; it also showcases her talent as a songwriter. Zaho (born Zahera Darabid) co-wrote every song on Dima in conjunction with Greiss, and the partnership between the two is so productive that they operate their own label, Down Lo. Zaho and Greiss have an impressive track record of success as hitmakers prior to Dima, collaborating on songs by Idir, Don Choa, and others. On Dima they at last get a full-length showcase for their talents, teaming up for over a dozen songs that are fashionably produced, well written in terms of both lyrics and song structure, and sung commandingly by Zaho. The album's highlights are sequenced early, among them the lead single, "C'est Chelou," whose hook is infectious and its beat stuttering and bouncing. A couple guest features, "La Roue Tourne" with Tunisiano and "Hey Papi" with Soprano, are also standouts, with Zaho clearly stealing the show from two of France's top rappers. Slower songs such as "Kif'n'dir" and "Je Te Promets" are no less impressive. "Kif'n'dir" at times sounds as if it were indeed a Timbaland-produced Justin Timberlake single. "Je Te Promets" is a meditative song performed mostly acoustic that finds Zaho at her most vulnerable as a vocalist. Dima concludes as it begins, with a version of the title track, yet another standout song.

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