Everything New

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Natalie may have scored a modest hit, "Goin' Crazy," with her self-titled 2005 debut album, but she didn't leave much of a lasting impression amid the legion of similarly attractive young urban dance-pop singers typified by Beyoncé and Ciara. Her second album, Everything New, isn't likely to change matters. Like its predecessor, the album opens with a nice breezy urban ballad with a sugar-coated hook. The song, titled "What You Gonna Do?," also features a phoned-in feature by Bun B, who seems like a strange partner considering his hardcore rap credentials. Everything New never really surpasses this opener, sadly, as some songs take an even breezier approach (e.g., "All of My Life"), eschewing the urban flourishes, while others compensate with harder, dancier productions ("Dance with Me"). The balance is nice, mainly employed by producers Happy Perez and Play N Skillz. But for an album titled Everything New, there sure isn't much here that sounds like anything approaching "new." This is boilerplate urban dance-pop, for the most part, and arguably a step down from Natalie, which had the benefit of lowered expectations because it was a debut album by a theretofore unknown artist. The exception to the lack of newness on Everything New is the album-closing title track, which boasts surprisingly sharp rapping from Natalie as well as a likewise cutting beat driven by an old Isaac Hayes sample. Make no mistake, "Everything New" is the most striking song on the album, even if it's too autobiographical for radio play. Indeed, it's a shame that it's sequenced last rather than first; it would have been a jolting kick-start to this otherwise predictable album. [The two unlisted bonus tracks include "Goin' Crazy," the likable hit from Natalie. It's a really nice bonus for anyone who doesn't already have that album or an MP3 of the song.]

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