Ever since the death of Aaliyah, hip-hop and R&B labels have attempted to fill the void with another streetwise yet classy female singer. The most prominent example recently is Atlanta’s Ciara, who exploded onto the scene with her club-shattering beats and good-girl persona. Roc-A-Fella records enters the fray with its version of teen R&B pop in the form of Teairra Mari, an anonymous singer who sounds like a cross between Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, without the sincerity of either.
Despite the singer’s lack of originality, Mari’s debut is an extremely listenable pop/R&B concoction, buoyed by quality productions and the singer’s powerful voice. Opener and lead single “Make Her Feel Good” is by far the album’s best track, so good in fact that it warrants an immediate repeat to enjoy it fully. A decidedly chunky old-school beat pounds behind Mari’s Beyonce-style delivery, creating an irresistible club banger. The second single, “No Daddy,” drops the ball, however, in an attempt to paint the singer as a down-on-her-luck homegirl.
The album’s production has a harder edge than some of her contemporaries’, most notably on “MVP” and the impressive “Confidential,” which finds Mari debating whether to give up her virginity. But production alone cannot elevate the album beyond a temporary diversion, and cliché lyrics and a derivative vocal style hinder the album and keep Mari from challenging Ciara for her crown.