Christina Milian’s So Amazin’ Is So Barely Above-Average

Christina Milian is a sweet-faced, sweet-voiced female R&B twenty-something currently experiencing a classic artistic identity crisis. She entered the R&B arena in her teens and unsuccessfully attempted to put a fresh R&B spin on the then-current teen-pop boom.

A few years later, she tried to create a glossy fusion of R&B, hip-hop and pop for her sophomore release, It’s About Time, which was more successful than its predecessor but still failed to ignite a major spark. And now, at the ripe ol’ age of 25, she’s attempting to evolve into a young urban songstress with the release of So Amazin’. And while Christina’s bid for such a position is genuine, and while her heart sounds definitely in it, the material that is supposed to put her in such a position isn’t always at its most substantial.

To aide her in her crossover, Christina enlisted the help of production team Cool & Dre. Best known for their sonic contributions to hip-hop, the duo’s major role on the album was to give Christina’s urbanized sound a strong, fresh and versatile hip-hop edge that could relax itself or pump up the bass when necessary. And while, on one hand, their productions seem to have vocal chemistry with Christina, on the other, the majority of the sounds found here seem to be derived from the same blueprint, thus making the record sound a bit stilted and one-sided.

But of whatever quality the album’s overall execution might be, there’s no denying that the quartet of tunes that open the album leave a strong, powerful and entertaining impression.

Though lead single, Say I, may have its backbeat straight ripped from “Hate It or Love It”, Christina’s energetic call-to-arms to take control of your own life is about as inspiring as contemporary R&B is gonna get. The melody may be a tad redundant and the hook a tad annoying but Christina’s defiant vocal is undeniable and strikes a perfect balance. Then Twisted quickly follows and perfectly sets up the tone for the rest of the record. Against a sleek, synth-laden midtempo, Christina puts a little urgency into her voice as she describes how her new man’s affections have her emotions going haywire. And basically, the remainder of the record bounces between various love/hate scenarios that either has Christina completely enamored or completely disgusted.

Gonna Tell Everybody is the first record to directly address Christina’s failed relationship with Nick Cannon. Borrowing elements from “Crossroads” (Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony), “Notorious Thugs” (Notorious B.I.G.) and “Half On A Baby” (R. Kelly), the production can hardly be called a Cool & Dre original but the emotion found within it is definitely all Christina’s. Christina takes her pen to pad and blazes a trail of heartbroken lyricism while delivering her most tender and vulnerable vocal on record to date. And just in case people think Christina’s too heartbroken to bite back, Who’s Gonna Ride makes it a point to air out some of Nick’s dirty laundry while giving Christina a little closure. The overall song may be a retread of Three 6 Mafia’s own “Stay Fly” but it has a much more venomous delivery (“I ain’t one to cuss – but fu*k you”).

And from there, the album drops into hit-or-miss territory and never fully recovers. So Amazin’ and Hot Boy are both anxious club bangers from a production standpoint but suffer immensely due to weak melodies, p!ss-poor lyricism, and disposable vocals (not to mention unsettling “growls” on the latter). True album filler of the grandest kind.

Foolin’ proves to be a huge redemption and the album’s centerpiece. Cool & Dre take an Average White Band and loop it around a robust synth/808 arrangement for a sleek rhythm with a subtle rock edge that is equal parts melodic and memorable. The lyric is honest and straightforward, like all great kiss-off songs should be, and Christina delivers her most fluid vocal performance, demonstrating what great tone her feathery soprano has.

And then we’re treated to a forgettable Neptunes knock-off (My Lovin’ Goes), a fluffy, cheesy, poppy ode of infatuation (Just A Little Bit), and an “interesting”, to say the least, tale from the other woman’s perspective on She Don’t Know. Then again, I guess pop radio is overdue for a smooth Latin Waltz. But one highlight does seep in between the aforementioned called Y’all Ain’t Nuthin’; with Christina and Ne-Yo, currently the most in-demand songwriter in R&B, creating another memorable male-bashing anthem that would do Beyonce and Co. proud.

Essentially, So Amazin’ is an album that sounds well above-average considering the context of R&B in which it’s been released. It fits in with all the major trends in contemporary R&B while subtly feigning experimentation to pass off as being ahead of the curve. Christina’s feathery soprano is strong enough to carry the material and has its deficiencies masked well. And Cool & Dre managed to trick out their synthesizers and 808s enough to create a handful of tunes sure to keep asses shaking well until the end of the year.

But a year from now, this album will most likely have gone stale. It will not catapult Christina into urban songstress superstar status like she desires and she will once again be resigned back to the drawing board in hopes of album #4 being her Platinum ticket.

My advice: catch it on sale and enjoy it in the moment. Momentary pleasure is better than no pleasure at all, right?

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