Friday, July 24, 2009

Battlefield by Jordin Sparks

Yes... this is a review. It will not be as long as my previous two reviews for those of you who followed me here. For those of you who haven't... I reviewed the Dixie Chicks previously and Kelly Clarkson.





Jordin Sparks released her sophomore album Battlefield on July 21, 2009, in the U.S. Overall, it was not what I expected. I was hoping for growth from this, now, young woman, who is the youngest ever American Idol winner, winning Season 5 at the age of 16. However, this contemporary R&B / Pop album is extremely focused (which can be good).



The first track "Walking In The Snow", which should have been titled "(I'm so) Unaffected", was a cute, light, young dance-pop track. It's sweet and simple, but hardly sets the tone for the album. The second track, first single, and title track "Battlefield" is co-produced by top-of-the-charts Ryan Tedder (frontman for OneRepublic). "Battlefield" is not a carbon copy of Tedder's other achievements ("Halo" [Beyonce], "Bleeding Love" [Leona Lewis], and the soon to be released "Already Gone" [Kelly Clarkson]) but has similar elements. It's a good first single, and this track definitely sets the tone for the album.



"Don't Let It Go To Your Head" surprised me with the line "I think of you in bed," which I find disturbing. Even though Sparks is now 19, I still see her as that 16 year old who won our hearts (or at least the hearts of the people who voted for her) on American Idol. The song was actually intended for the 2005 release Sunday Love by FeFe Dobson, the release of which was cancelled. There's an interesting bridge that reminds me of a genre I can't seem to name, but, otherwise, it sounds like a slower "Battlefield".

"S.O.S. (Let The Music Play)" uses the song "Let The Music Play" by Shannon from the album of the same name (1983) as it's basis and chorus. It's a fun song that highlights the flare of 80's music and the influence of 80's music on modern music (as highlighted by Darren Hayes in This Delicate Film We've Made). It's trans-generational, simple, and fun.

"It Takes More" is slightly reminiscent of "Tattoo". The verses are rocker-chick low, but the chorus doesn't deliver an appropriate build-up that creates interesting melodies. It ends without the drums and background vocals, where Jordin creates interesting melodic changes (interesting as in beautiful). "Watch You Go" is slightly Beyonce/Sasha Fierce with Cascade like vocals. "I hate to watch you leave but I love to watch you go" is slightly cliche, and it's yet another "Battlefield" on an album full of "Battlefield"s. (Hence the album title Battlefield.)

"No Parade" has the potential to be the big, timeless Diva ballad of the album, but fails to deliver when it adds the "Battlefield" drums. In an effort to be modern, this track (among others) have been overdone. "Let It Rain" has a very rock chorus. That would sound awesome if the track wasn't full of multiple instrumentations that clash with each other. "Emergency (911)" is the first track co-written by Sparks, and it sounds very Disney (aka Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana). After the introduction, there isn't a lot going on here for me.

"Was I The Only One" (another Sparks cowrite) starts and ends sweetly, another potential soft-pop classic. During the second verse, the drums are added to give it that R&B feel. This time, however, it doesn't necessarily kill the song (as I believe it did "No Parade"). "Faith" is actually one of my favorite songs off the album. Musically, it goes the way of the pop gospel-based ballad of the 80's and 90's. Sparks, who cowrote this track, goes off vocally towards the end, but brings it back. This is possibly the most timeless track of the album. The last track, "The Cure" reminds me of this exact song that I swore I heard when the first album came out. However, according to my research, it was only leaked as of July 14, 2009. It reminds me of "Tattoo" and sounds like everything else on the album.

The BONUS TRACKS from the Deluxe edition should be on the album. They add diversity and show growth. "Papercut" shows the most growth, having Sparks (in the final cowrite) sing with a full band as opposed to an intrumental or synthetic instruments. It is raw and emotional; young yet mature; not manufactured; not overdone. It is everything I was hoping the album would be but wasn't. "Postcard" is a slow R&B/Pop track that reminds me of a late 90's, early 00's girl group (the kind that only has 3 girls throughout its entire duration of 1.5 albums). Sparks attempts to do too much with the song vocally, but overall this song is very casual, laid-back, yet entertaining.

Battlefield is definitely not a sequel to Jordin Sparks. It isn't the same, it hasn't grown, and it just simply isn't enough for me. If this were her freshman release, B or B+, possibly A-, but this is a second album. B-: Stop trying so hard to be modern and fresh, Jordin, and be real. "Papercut" was definitely my favorite track and what I hoped for in this album. I'll be waiting.

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