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Thursday, January 25, 2007

CD Review: Katharine McPhee: R&B Princess?


When Katharine McPhee finished second last season, there were a lot of questions about what kind of album she would release.

Unfortunately, her self-titled debut doesn’t do much to answer those questions…

There are some bright spots on Katharine McPhee, but the majority of the CD is cheesy R&B that ranges from risqué to just plain ridiculous…

“Love Story,” one of several songs co-written and produced by Timbaland protégée Danja, gets the CD off to a rocky start with the first of his R&B messes. Her first single, “Over It,” really does grow on you and after listening to the entire CD, there’s no doubt it was the best choice to go with first since it’s actually the best cut. “Open Toes” is another Danja cut (Katharine also gets a co-writing credit.) with a good beat, but her ode to her slingbacks is just a little ridiculous (“I’m lovin’ these slingback shoes. I like the way they stay loose.”). Katharine said she thought the track could be the new “Thong Song” for ladies. Not even close. There is no way I would’ve put this track so early on the CD.

Then we get the first of the bad transitions as the next track, “Home,” is a soaring ballad written by the prolific Kara DioGuardi. “Home” is solid, but the CD quickly goes back downhill with “Not Ur Girl.” Danja sounds like he was going for a Christina sound on this one, but it misses the boat. “Each Other” is a completely unmemorable Danja track, but “Dangerous” is downright cheesy, which leads us into another bad transition with the “Hurt”-like ballad, “Ordinary World.” “World” is another strong track, but it is unfortunately followed by the CD’s worst cut…

“Do What You Do,” co-written and produced by the Underdogs (Beyonce, Pink, “Dreamgirls” soundtrack) is a cheesy Pussycat Dolls knock-off. And unfortunately for Katharine, the risqué lyrics come off as more ridiculous than sexy. Not sure what they were thinking with that one. “Better Off Alone” only makes me wish that its co-writer, Austin Carroll (“The One: The Making of a Superstar”), had recorded it himself. His soulful voice would have handled it much better.

Danja finally gets it together with “Neglected,” which sounds a lot like “Cry Me A River” or “What Goes Around”—and that’s a compliment. The CD closes with “Everywhere I Go,” which was co-written and produced by Babyface. Why in the world you would leave this song until the very end, I have no idea. Maybe they wanted to leave things on a good note. “Everywhere” is not a fantastic song, but it’s classic Babyface, so it’s definitely worth listening to.

There’s no doubt that the ballads are Katharine’s strong suit, but I think that’s more of a reflection on the songs themselves and not Katharine’s singing. If they wanted to make her an R&B star, fine. But they needed to give her good material to do it with.

Personally, I would’ve liked to have heard a more pop CD from Katharine, combining power ballads and radio-friendly upbeat tunes, but maybe RCA was concerned that Katharine would be compared to Kelly Clarkson.

I have to believe, though, that constant comparisons to Kelly would be better than this.

You can listen for yourself at http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/mcphee__katharine/1398994/album.jhtml?popThis=playIt(). Be sure to let me know what you think.

Katharine McPhee hits stores January 30th…

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