Samantha Mumba

Gotta Tell You

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Like many talented teenage pop singers, Samantha Mumba was initially promoted on the strength of her talent -- as in, "Isn't she much more talented than any other singer of her age?" It is true that Mumba is a fine singer, with a voice that sounds richer than most teen singers, and her material on her debut Gotta Tell You isn't strictly flimsy teen pop. It's more soulful and pretty well-constructed, sultry without veering into Lolita territory. In short, this is a fine product, a sterling example of immaculately crafted dance-pop and radio-ready ballads. If there's any problem, it's that, apart from "Body II Body," which weirdly appropriates David Bowie's icy "Ashes to Ashes" for a seduction number, none of this is particularly memorable without repeated spins. After those plays, it still seems like Gotta Tell You is a little too heavy on filler -- the singles, like "Gotta Tell You" and "Baby, Come Over (This Is Our Night)" are what stand out, along with the slow-burning closer, "Lately" -- but it's still better crafted than much teen pop, and it's delivered with conviction by Mumba. It's not a stunner, but it's satisfying on its own (albeit ephemeral) terms, and it sets her up well for greater things.

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