Like her fellow ‘Idol’ champ Kelly Clarkson, 2007 winner Jordin Sparks is blessed with a lush, commanding voice that she often uses with skill and control. As on her well-received self-titled debut, the young singer imbues her recently-released sophomore album, Battlefield (Jive Records), with soaring vocals and amazing conviction.
The result? Battlefield is overwhelmingly a knockout CD, a funky mix of dance-pop and contemporary R&B with traces of techno and soft rock, backed by diverse production and songwriting help from such hit-makers as Claude Kelly, Harvey Mason Jr, T-Pain and Toby Gad.
Sparks fully exercises her pipes on the brash and rock-influenced title track—the album's first single, penned by Ryan Tedder—telling of the highs and lows of intimate relationships. She also impresses on the funky, bass-heavy “Walking on Snow” and the up-tempo, dancefloor-destined “S.O.S (Let the Music Play),” which wouldn’t be out of place on an album from Clarkson or Rihanna. The bittersweet breakup track “Watch You Go” would make a good single choice as would the “The Cure,” a charming song on which Sparks pledges total devotion to the love of her life.
On the organ-driven power ballad “Let It Rain,” one of three Toby Gad tracks, Sparks transports listeners deep into the heart of a woman struggling with fear and words left unsaid. “I don’t want to hold it back one more day. I’ll wash it away,” she offers during the chorus. For most of the album, the tracks are deeply emotional, expressing heartache, longing and hope. But no matter the hurdle presented, Sparks manages to scale it impressively, pleasing her listeners simultaneously.
Among my other faves on the album are the reflective “No Parade,” the love-me-or-leave-me number “It Takes More,” the attitude-laced “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” and the radio-friendly “Emergency (911).” Sparks sounds totally at home delivering these songs.
While Sparks has previously shone with mature hits like the Grammy-nominated “No Air” (featuring embattled R&B star Chris Brown) and “One Step at a Time” on her debut offering, on Battlefield she enjoys a more fun and up-tempo thrill ride. Laden with 12 tracks that confirm her pop, R&B and rock influences, Battlefield is a praiseworthy second album from a talent to watch.
DOWNLOAD: "Watch You Go," The Cure," "It Takes More," and "SOS (Let The Music Play)"