Of the few lucky Idol alumni who've gotten past the formulaic and most times crappy first album stage, Jordin Sparks was the one I least expected to convince me she's good. I didn't notice her on Idol because Blake Lewis was and always will be tied with David Cook as one of the most creative and outstanding Idol contestants ever but that's another matter. Jordin's first album came and went - I liked three songs including One Step At A Time which eventually became a single. Promotions were done and over with for this album and I forgot about the girl. When Battlefield came out I was unimpressed but Walking on Snow changed my opinion on this album - SOS tied up any other doubts I had and It Takes More got me hyperventilating at the thought of having an album possibly full to the brim with amazing songs.
Needless to say, even if the only really major, prestigious award Jordin has won is an AMA (although that's good enough.) and Carrie and Kelly have won a ton of Grammies after their first albums, the girl has her own niche in the pop industry. I mean, she's not pop to the last note but she's not hardcore enough to be R&B - there are a few of them in that part of the industry but Jordin's clearly leading the pack.
My one observation of the album as a whole is the fact that Jordin has managed to show us 12 (14 if you have the deluxe edition) songs that are epic in completely different ways. Whether it be the happy and/or epic when you want it to be Walking On Snow or the cry-worthy epic-ness of Was I The Only One, these songs make sense. The fact that they're all epic in some way, shape or form makes the album cohesive for me - there's something that ties everything together neatly and nicely.
I've said what I think of Walking on Snow and SOS - my reviews on them still stand, They're both brilliant, WOS being epic yet happy and SOS being epic in itself - no need for further discussion, I think. I still think Battlefield is boring and only ever so slightly worth my time and my review on it 1-2 months ago still stands as well.
So let's focus on the brilliant songs I've never talked about. Like, duh.
Don't Let It Go To Your Head made an impact when the second line started and the instrumentals came in - it sounds like something straight out of her first album but it's different. It's like a less epic SOS mixed with a teensy bit of the beauty that Was I The Only One (we'll get to that song later, I promise) and a bit of Battlefield thrown in for good measure.
I first heard It Takes More a few days ago when it had just leaked and I was taken aback by how beautifully strung together the parts of the song were. It's not that they're all on the same level and it's like there's no difference between the chorus and the verse - you know which part is which but it's just that the 'transitions' sound so effortless that it's like they were meant to be on the song no matter what. That and the fact that the hook is another insanely brilliant Oriental-ish melody. Add Jordin's voice and you have a fabulous combination.
One masterpiece after the other - Watch You Go has these bigger, more processed bongo-like drums in the background that practically make the whole song along with the above-excellent melody. The drums give the song an island-y feel but the beautiful melody will bring your right back to where we all are and make you faint at the same time. The elements of the song don't seem like a perfect match - you'd imagine a spoken piece or a rap for the text but the vocals and instrumentals really work well with each other. Kudos to Jordin, without a question.
No Parade is brilliant. It's very much like a ballad from artists like her - beautiful melody, piano start with an eventual processed drum loop coming in. The only difference is that this is the song that showed me that Jordin's voice has really changed from her first album - it's grown an awful lot and it's a lot deeper with more color to it. This is the song that showed me that Jordin can sing, very well. The hook will make you faint for a second time so brace yourself for that.
Let It Rain is one of the few sub-par songs on the album for me. Put this right between Battlefield and the rest of the album though and it's a very good combination - makes a cohesive album through and though. Not a big fan of Emergency either - heard it days ago and wasn't impressed at all. Still, the song makes sense but I personally don't hear anything moving, sorry.
I like Faith - it's cute and cool. From the start the piano tells you that the song will escalate into this Aretha Franklin/soul-ish number and her vocal technique later makes you think it'll happen even more. What's most surprising about the song is that it doesn't escalate as much as the start says it will - bit by bit, yes but we were expecting grander than grand! Surprising, Sparks, surprising.
I've heard something like The Cure before - it's just one of the songs I can't pinpoint right now. I like the song heaps though, strong mid-tempo. The full version of Papercut didn't impress me as much as Postcard did but maybe that's because I've listened to the clip waaaay too many times for me to not be surprised. Postcard is a very descriptive ending for the album - it sort of sums up everything the album is and ever will. But I deliberately skipped one song.
Get your tissues ready and lie down on a bed or flat surface before you even think of listening to Was I The Only One, trust me. The violin section on this song makes up something that sounds like every other string section of a pop song at the start but add Jordin's insanely different from her usual vocals THEN listen to the melody and the first part will bring you to tears. When the characteristic R&B elements come in after the first chorus its brilliance will blind you and the minute she goes up before the chorus you will faint. The second chorus has such a different feel from the first part but by the near end of it when everything dies down again you hear this humming and suddenly - BOOM. The song explodes and literally blows you off the face of the earth. The song ends as it starts - Jordin's vocals, a violin and a guitar. I'm even more speechless than I've ever been.
Idol or no Idol, I always say that the hardest shift or change an artist can go through in his/her career is the one from his/her first album to the second album - there are a ton of possibilities that will tell your listeners whether or not you were yourself when you made your first album. I may not like a few of the songs on the album but it's undeniable that Jordin has attempted to make that shift and she's done it effin' amazingly while giving us some of the best songs of the year - there's no 'I think' or 'it's safe to say' in my statement, I'm sure of it.
So, to sum up the album:
Best Track: Was I The Only One
Better Tracks: Everything else
My Least Favorite Track: Like I said, Let It Rain and Emergency didn't make an impact.
THE RATING: 5/5