Three-quarters of the way into Jena Lee's debut album, Vous Remercier, she takes the time to expound upon her self-coined style of music with the song "Émo R&B." With the sensational success of her debut single, "J'Aimerais Tellement," which topped the French charts for weeks on end in late 2009, it's a wonder no one else has taken a stab at this style of music, which mixes run-of-the-mill electro-pop with slashing electric guitar riffs and heart-on-sleeve emo sentiment. If it all seems more than a bit manufactured -- from the musical style, to the "emo R&B" marketing tagline, to her fashion sense, which crosses the Cure with Michael Jackson -- well, that's because it is. Lee might be a youngster at 22 years of age, but she's already got a couple years of hitmaking industry experience under her belt. She's credited with writing a half-dozen songs on Popstars winner Sheryfa Luna's eponymous album debut from 2007, including the chart-topping smash hit lead single, "Quelque Part," and she also penned "Comme Avant," a Top Five hit for Star Academy finalist Mathieu Edward in 2008. It doesn't get more commercial than Popstars and Star Academy, a training ground for modern-day hitmakers if there ever were one. Given her Midas touch as a songwriter, it was just a matter of time before Lee got around to embarking on a solo career of her own. That she goes the route of emo-R&B is curious because the styles seem rather incongruous -- Justin Timberlake crossed with Linkin Park? -- but it works well for her because while her music sensibilities are thoroughly urban (think back to her work with Luna and Edward), her personal style is emo rock. Unlike Britney Spears, Rihanna, or Lady Gaga, she's not going to wow anyone with her physical features or dancing. She's more MySpace than MTV. Dressed in the attire of a stubbornly depressed teenager, she lacks sex appeal and indeed looks like the songwriter that she is. For instance, she hardly shows her face in her early press photos, and the video for her debut single is largely animated. As incongruous as it might seem conceptually, Lee's emo-R&B style ends up working surprisingly well on Vous Remercier. She knows how to write a catchy pop song and she teams up with studio professionals who supply the Timbaland-esque electro-pop beats and slashing electric guitar riffs. Clearly more of a songwriter than a singer, she isn't especially talented as a vocalist, but that's not really a big deal. Like increasing numbers of contemporary pop artists, she benefits greatly from multi-tracking and Auto-Tune. In addition to "J'Aimerais Tellement," album highlights include the album-opening pair of songs "Je Me Perds" and "Du Style," plus the piano ballad "Banalité," the hard-hitting rocker "Redeviens Toi-Même," and the power ballad "Dépendence." A lot of people will bash this as target-marketed music for teenagers, and while there's certainly some truth to that, Vous Remercier is a cut above most contemporary teen pop, the work of a gifted young songwriter not far removed from her teenage years who has a unique approach to modern-day hitmaking.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier