Chrisette Michele sometimes seems more eager to please her elders than express herself straight-up. Take, for instance, "I've been studying Miss Billie, Miss Ella, Miss Sarah Vaughan, and Miss Natalie Cole," from "Let's Rock." That's reverence. And then there's "Take me back in the day, when lovin' was pure," from "Golden." She was born in 1982. Above all, there's her voice, a gently scratchy instrument that occasionally plays up the fact that none of its antecedents were born after the '60s. But that's just her voice, which adapts to each mostly fresh-sounding production on I Am, though there is no denying she is not going to impinge upon the territories staked out by most other R&B artists her age. Following strategically placed features on Jay-Z's Kingdom Come and Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead -- her roles on "Lost One," "Still Dreaming," and "Can't Forget About You" could've been mistaken for dusty samples -- the album straddles old-but-new/new-but-old rather adeptly, and the ease with which she shifts from approach to approach is impressive. (She also co-wrote each song.) The album could've used a couple more upbeat and assertive songs in the vein of the shuffling, Run-D.M.C.-sampling, will.i.am-produced "Let's Rock" ("Let me get a verse, yeah I got nerve, don't need to rehearse, I just need to blow"), and a track with a production credit to the website SalaamRemi.com titled "Good Girl" ("Oh why do my sisters steady find misters who swear what they give her is better than quality time?"). They are two of the finest surrogate Lauryn Hill tracks of 2007. As unassuming as it is, "Mr. Radio," one of several productions from apparent newcomer Mo Jaz, is the album's key standout. Chrisette's leisurely dismissal of the love songs she's tolerating is far more seductive than her targets, and the performance is so unforced that it might just be the way she talks. Serious skills.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman