Nothing here is as irresistible as the single, a brilliant update of the '80s arena rock sound that deserves better than its middling chart performance, but several tracks aren't too far off. 'Don't Let It Go To Your Head' is as catchy as midtempo pop-rock comes, while 'Let It Rain', with its church organ intro and screeching guitars, offers lots of soft rock bombast. Two excursions into dance-pop territory, the stomping, Shannon-sampling 'SOS (Let The Music Play)' and the boyfriend-baiting 'Emergency (911)', also do the business.
Most of the rest is pleasant enough, but midtempo pop tunes like 'Watch You Go' and 'It Takes More' don't leave much of an impression after they're finished playing. Worse still, the album degenerates into sentimental mush in its final stretch, with Sparks delivering a series of threadbare clichés over dull, dated arrangements. Suffice it to say that 'Faith', a sappy empowerment ballad Mariah could have sung 15 years ago, actually features the line: "'Cause when the sky's the darkest, you can see the stars."
The result is an album that improves upon Sparks' debut – it doesn't try so hard to cover all of the bases, and Sparks sounds more comfortable on the uptempo cuts – but has the same Achilles heel: a paucity of really memorable songs. Then again, faced with some tough choices and release date approaching, it's hard to blame Sparks – still only 19, lest we forget - for sticking a little too closely to the middle of the road.
> Click here to read our recent interview with Jordin Sparks