Thalia [2003]

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Thalía's string of Latin albums were calculated and executed for maximum appeal -- 2000's Arrasando was, after all, named after a popular Mexican soap opera. While the sounds were predictable, they were also immediately danceable, and smartly showcased the delectable Thalía herself. Given all of this, it's not surprising that the Latin superstar's English-language debut is equally fine-tuned. Before it becomes a Spanish-language album in its second half, Thalía runs artfully through the styles that have dominated the urban club/dance scene at least since the late '90s. Thalía trades lines Ashanti-style with Fat Joe on "I Want You" (which also cops the hook of the late Big Punisher's classic -- and better -- single "Still Not a Player"). She sells the positive-thinking vibe of the dancefloor-ready "Don't Look Back," but the song was much better as Kylie Minogue's "Love at First Sight." Beginning to see a pattern? It's true that with music such as this, the overall image of an artist -- stylization in both sound and sight -- is more marketable than breaking new ground. Thalía understands this from her Latin work. But from its bland photography, which dilutes her inherent diva-ness in favor of a generic (read: Americanized) sexy pop star layout, to tracks like "Misbehavin'" and "What's It Gonna Be Boy?," Thalía's official U.S. debut is a sleepwalking affair that lumps her into the throng of performers hoping to steal a little bit of J.Lo's bling-bling. It's unfortunate that Thalía's talent is misdirected into sound-alike territory, since she sounds so strong on the stirring "Closer to You" and "Save the Day" -- two surging dance ballads that suggest the mature sound of Des'Ree. It can be said that the songs are just another style Thalía is trying on; however, it's obvious in her expressive vocal that this is where she belongs, which is more than can be said for her tepid TRL duet with Fat Joe. The album is doubly disappointing, since its second half consists mostly of Spanish-language versions of the singles in its first half. Thalía was designed to show America what Mexico and the world have known for years about the artist. Unfortunately, it never focuses long enough on one thing to allow its star to truly emerge.

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