Get On

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It may be a bit of an oxymoron to describe someone whose music is steeped in the sounds of the '70s as ahead of her time, but years before the likes of Duffy and Amy Winehouse made classic-sounding soul fashionable, Leeds-born Rhianna was doing exactly the same thing, but without the chart success. Armed with a Foxy Brown-style Afro, a psychedelic fashion sense, and a voice as versatile as Minnie Riperton's, she was arguably just as talented and deserved much more than just the one solitary Top 20 hit. But what a hit it was. Sounding like a lost Phil Spector classic, the Wall of Sound-style production of "Oh Baby" complemented Rhianna's sweet vocals perfectly to produce one of the songs of 2002. Debut album Get On, co-written with brother Leigh, who she sang with in the now-defunct LSK, never quite managed to reach the giddy heights of its lead single, but its combination of soul-pop and retro-tinged funk still sounds like a breath of fresh air. The glorious second single, "Word Love," with its pounding piano, psychedelic guitars, and falsetto vocals, sounds like a collaboration between Prince and Kate Bush; "Damn," a feisty tale about a cheating boyfriend, takes its lead from Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More Babe," but its funky rhythms recall the just as feisty Sunshine Anderson; while the dark and brooding basslines of "Testify" are the perfect accompaniment to its serious lyrical theme of crime in society. The two covers are handled with just as much aplomb. "I Love Every Little Thing About You" is a faithful rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic while "Moon Is Blue," originally recorded by '80s outfit Colourbox, is updated with skittering percussion and dreamy synths. Only the baffling inclusion of "Girlfriend," whose childlike melodies and bubblegum pop production seem to have wandered in from an Aqua album, lets the album down. It certainly shows Rhianna doesn't take herself too seriously, but its inherent chirpiness and "you make my heart go boom" chorus certainly feel misplaced. Given this remarkably consistent first offering, Rhianna should count herself unlucky that she appeared a few years too early to ride on the successful wave of nostalgic soul.

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