Jordin Sparks’ self-titled debut was lightweight, which is by no means a bad thing. Filled with catchy tunes and teen heartthrob lyrics, the production was polished but not overbearing. The big hit, “Tattoo,” was built around the tension of restraint, with Sparks’ voice constantly threatening, but never actually managing, to go for broke. The album as a whole had a sweet punch reminiscent of classic girl-group pop, and at least one moment of weird genius in the sparsely dreamy music-box tinkling of “See My Side.”
That album was, of course, a monster success, and with such triumph comes, unfortunately, more: more ambition, more production, more vocal histrionics. There are still okay songs here: “Watch You Go” is catchy; “Was I the Only One” includes some touching lyrics about belatedly realizing that that guy never cared in the first place. But even these overall decent attempts get squandered in the seemingly irresistible desire to show us the power of this fully operational battle station. The soaring synths and gospel emoting kept in check on the first album are here ladled on in heaping helpings. Add in an unfortunate flirtation with rock stylings, and you’ve got “Let It Rain,” which sounds like a collision between Andrew Lloyd Webber and a 3-year-old throwing a tantrum. Not quite as bad, but still not good, is “Emergency 911,” where Sparks shows that she can do a passable imitation of a less edgy Avril Lavigne. Maybe less-edgy-Avril-Lavigne is what the kids are clamoring for? I’m hoping not; if this album tanks, perhaps Sparks will scale back and recapture some of the grace of her debut.