Amanda Perez

Where You At?

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Though just out of her teens, Amanda Perez is considerably more advanced than most of her musical peers. The Fort Wayne, IN, native wrote and produced her entire debut album, a chart-conscious blend of hip-hop bangers and R&B ballads that sounds like it could slide into heavy rotation between Ja Rule and J. Lo without making anyone blink. Even more noteworthy is her refusal to define herself by ethnicity; the all-English Where You At? sounds designed to help Perez avoid pigeonholing as a Latin artist. She's actually more credible as a singer than a rapper, displaying a nice touch (and not oversinging) on heartfelt slow jams like "Never" and "Angel." And while the melodies and lyrics occasionally sink into banality, there's no mistaking the talent and drive that emerge over the course of these 13 tunes. As the told-ya-so title track suggests, underestimating Perez is probably a bad idea.

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