Like Keke Palmer and Tiffany Evans, Dominican-American singer Karina (last name Pasian) is an antidote to fellow young female artists who value objectification over respect (or believe the two things are synonymous). The material on her debut, First Love -- following a successful run on Star Search and a bidding war between Bad Boy, Interscope, and victor Def Jam -- is age-appropriate, a rare thing from a teenaged major-label artist in 2008. Karina does not merely steer clear from language and subjects that would make a parent cringe; "16 @ War," a collaboration with Tricky Stewart and the-Dream, is a somber anthem that is almost processional in nature, with each line carrying weight, from "Ain't no daddies where I'm from, there's just mad mothers" to "To him I'm just a transaction." Most of the album deals in heartache and being in love, but Karina handles her suitors in ways that would make any mother proud. Take "Slow Motion," a pro-abstinence song that might have more of an effect than the average parent-child talk: "Don't wanna mess with your pride/The question's not when but why." Her maturity level is nearly a fault; First Love is nothing if not a serious album. Even during the few boisterous productions, she seems to be keeping herself in check to make sure she is not having too much fun, like she's in a hurry to be considered an adult artist who is above making a pop record -- an area where she could have taken cues from Palmer and Evans. Still, the album is as needed as Palmer's So Uncool and Tiffany Evans -- proud and smart, real and relatable, packed with substance.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman