Album Track Listing
Release Date: 13 December 2004
Reviewed By: Nooreen Kara
2. Let Me Love You
3. Couldn't Say No
5. How Could You
6. Girl I Need
7. Call The Cops
8. Here I Go Again
9. Nikes Fresh Out Of The Box
11. Like Me Real Hard
13. Let Me Love You (remix)
- Concrete Rose
Looking evidently handsome with cleanly cut hair and trendy blazers, asking his ladies to “trust” him because he’s “got skills” and accusing a girlfriend of giving “the ghetto Karma Sutra” to another man – surely this isn’t the same Mario who just two years ago was singing pop-R&B crossovers about getting his hair braided? Boy’s grown up, and the sexy star is back in an attempt to make the transition – his ‘Turning Point’ – from mid-teen cute boy to manhood.
The album kicks off with the radio-leaked ‘18’, a jumpy collaboration with Cassidy, in which Mario tells people not to compare him to older and more experienced artists – namely Usher – claiming he has ‘seven years to catch up’. This ideal introduction reminds us just how young Mario is and how he’s not going to be singing about being such a playa, how he got someone pregnant and all his confessions, blah blah blah…
The majority of the rest of the album bases itself around romantic ballads, including the enveloping soul melody and kiss-inspiring lead single, ‘Let Me Love You’. With such simple production and a clean beat, Mario sounds so mature and sincere; he in fact shows he doesn’t need those seven years to catch up. Mario proves to be on a similar level to that of Usher’s and shows natural potential to go further. He carries this song brilliantly and the absence of a flashy bass-thumping beat and a synthesised tune allows the spotlight to shine on his newly developed vocals.
The anguish-ridden ‘How Could You’ is another standout track and once again it’s a slow cut classic. Sounding more like something which should be coming from the likes of Joe or Brian McKnight than a newly turned 18-year-old boy, Mario takes R&B back to simplicity as he sings about that all too familiar topic of being heartbroken.
There’s the odd club hit too, effectively breaking up the album. One example is the crunk-influenced ‘Boom’, which also features a verse from Juvenile. There is some scepticism as to the whole ‘Don’t compare me to Usher’ thing right about now – the song is produced by Atlanta’s most predictable, Lil’ Jon, and the repetitions of ‘A-Town’ in the background don’t help. Expected from practically any club joint, it lacks any real substance; nevertheless, it’s a decent dance tune.
‘Here I Go Again’ is a more intense, rocky-tempo track, with fantastic vocal arrangement. This fresh retro tune has Mario expressing his lovelorn distress: ‘I gave you all of me/ I gave you everything/ Even that diamond ring/ It didn’t mean a thing.’
At first glance, ‘Nikes Fresh Out the Box’ appears to be the ‘Turning Point’ answer to ‘Braid My Hair’ from the first album. This time around it’s not braids Mario’s interested in, rather “a pair of fresh all white Air Force Ones”. However, there’s a clever extended metaphorical concept to the song, a classic, laidback beat and Mario’s lyrics and vocals are cute – damn, he hits those high notes well!
Other tracks include the reggae-influenced ‘Girl I Need’, the trumpet-laced ‘Shakedown’ and the male bravado abundant ‘Directions’. While ‘Let Me Love You’ will be the baby-making song this season, the CD closes with a street remix, featuring rhymes from Jadakiss and T.I. and a rougher, more jagged beat.
On the first album, Mario didn’t overstep any boundaries and appropriately chose to speak about what a 15-year-old should be speaking about. He has definitely matured with age on this CD, and it’s showcased both in his voice and lyrics. One line from ‘Turning Point’ is ‘You ain't gotta tell me where you be/ 'Cause you ain't obligated to me’ – how many 18-year-olds do you know who have that kind of attitude?
Amidst all these Usher comparisons and whatnot, I can honestly say I think Mario can and will go further than most will have predicted from his debut LP. On this release, there’s perhaps a youthful mixture of Donnell Jones’ soul, the seductive, knee-weakening vocals of Ginuwine and the silky sounds of R. Kelly, but yet Mario manages to sound wholly original, proving he’s not just that bit of eye-candy for us girls.
4 out of 5
Top 3 tracks:
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