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O'Ryan Review

by Jason Birchmeier

O'Ryan entered the increasingly overcrowded PG-13-rated urban teen sweepstakes in 2004 with his self-titled debut, which positions him alongside the likes of Marques Houston, B2K, Cassidy, Lloyd, Mario, and Tug Entertainment labelmate Young Rome as potential heirs to Usher's long and prosperous reign over the teenage girls of America. It's tempting to dismiss O'Ryan for this reason alone. In fact, it's a downright welcoming proposition! After all, how many of these over-produced urban teens does America need unleashed in a given year, especially when Usher is already oversaturating the media outlets with his endless run of hits? Grounds for dismissal are all the more relevant when you also factor in all the female equivalents (Beyoncé, Ashanti, Ciara, et al.). But hold on for a moment before you snidely dismiss O'Ryan's debut. Believe it or not, it's really a good album. It sports an 18-and-under mentality, granted, but if that's what you're looking for, look no further: O'Ryan is as good as, if not better than, recent urban teen albums by Ciara, Lloyd, Cassidy, and Marques Houston, to just name a few of the more commercially successful releases of mid-to-late 2004. There aren't too many big-name collaborators here. Houston co-writes and -produces a couple standout tracks, and J-Kwon and Trackboyz collaborate with O'Ryan on another standout track, the late-album club track "Shorty." But that's about it for brand names -- in other words, there's no behind-the-scenes R. Kellys here, just a strong team effort by a large cast of writers and producers and the velvety-voiced O'Ryan. It all amounts to a well-done album that runs a modest 12 tracks in 45 minutes and swings with a nice sense of diversity from slow-grind party starters to slow-dance ballads to yearning make-out songs to party-up club numbers. So even though these PG-13-rated urban teen albums seem to be a dime a dozen in 2004, there's no use complaining as long as they're as well done as O'Ryan's debut.

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