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RIHANNA - A GIRL LIKE ME - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: ***

Rihanna - A Girl Like Me - Universal Young, pretty, sexy, stylish, and hip, Rihanna seems to be everything a modern R&B crooner should be. Rapper turned record producer Jay-Z took her under his wing, fashioned her on his girlfriend Beyoncé, and got explosive results. Her debut Music Of The Sun outsold the last Destiny’s Child release and was naughty enough to warrant a dedicated following across the globe.

Barely six months later, the Barbados born beauty is back with her second release A Girl Like Me. While she didn't top the Billboard Hot 100 on her first trip with Pon De Replay last summer (Mariah Carey held her off from the top spot), the first single from this album SOS (Rescue Me) just spent a second week at #1 on the US charts. She may never wail like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but the teenager gets a B for effort as she seamlessly tries to bounce from genre to genre on the thirteen tracks here.

There’s the underflow of reggae on Kisses Don't Lie, Barry White-esque funk grooves on Unfaithful, and Crazy Thing Called Love has a bass line that just doesn’t quit. The album is good for a handful of singles, as the Beyoncé worthy Selfish Girl indicates. So why doesn't the album play as greater than the sum of its parts? Largely because it lacks distinctive material, the production is overplayed and Rihanna barely detours from her previous effort.

It's not a bad album by any means, but at a playing time of less than an hour, it’s already over just when things are beginning to sound good. As expected, Rihanna firmly states A Girl Like Me is her best album to date, but it's no better or worse than any thing she’s released before. Good for a couple of spins.

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