Preceding Justin Bieber's YouTube rags to riches fairy tale by a full 12 months, Dutch singer Esmée Denters became the first artist to sign to Justin Timberlake's Tennman label after he spotted her performing Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder cover versions on the video-sharing site in 2006. Not one to sit back and watch the pennies roll in, the former *NSync star not only features as executive producer on her debut album Outta Here, but has also co-written four of its tracks, and appears as guest vocalist on two, the Stargate-produced, sparse electro-funk of "Love Dealer" and the Timbaland-influenced, staccato-led R&B of "Casanova." Timberlake's constant presence could have overshadowed his protégé's first offering, but Denters proves she's just as capable without the aid of her superstar mentor. The clattering rhythms, lilting piano hooks, and power ballad chorus of the Ryan Tedder-penned "Victim" are just as epic as the anthems he wrote for Beyoncé, Leona Lewis, and Kelly Clarkson, "Admit It" is an intriguing fusion of jazz-inflected soul, brass-led hip-hop, and infectious dance-pop, while "Just Can't Have It" is a swinging acoustic midtempo whose simple but classy production fully allows Denters' powerful vocals to shine. Admittedly, the album's highlight appears courtesy of the Timberlake co-written title track, whose crunk beats, underlying rock guitars, and polished pop melodies would have provided a much better comeback single for Christina Aguilera than her recent derivative Lady Gaga pastiche. "The First Thing," a meandering attempt at a Mary J. Blige-style urban slow jam, and the melodramatic piano-led "Memories Turn to Dust" show that Denters is far more convincing as an Aaliyah-esque, futuristic R&B diva than a soulful balladeer. But at its best, Outta Here is as a well-produced, female-fronted companion to Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds which suggests that in the future, the next YouTube sensation could well be discovered singing one of Denters' very own songs.
Outta Here Review
by Jon O'Brien