Deborah Cox Deborah Cox Arista 74321 32575 2

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The soul diva market is a competitive, crowded area at the moment, with all the Whitneys, Mariahs, Celines and Natalies seducing the smooch- soul dollar, but Canadian Deborah Cox has more than enough going for her to find her own little niche in it. She's got a cute Paula Abdul kind of smile, which helps, but unlike Paula, Debs can also sing the socks off a song, and write a decent hook as well, if last year's hit "Sentimental" is anything to go by.

Arista boss Clive Davis, using his experience with Whitney, has groomed her well, setting her up on this debut with a fleet of midas-fingered soul producers - the likes of Dallas Austin and Daryl Simmons - and pro songwriters such as Diane Warren and the ubiquitous Babyface. The result is carefully modulated series of contemporary dance grooves, including a fizzing swingbeat version of the SOS Band's "Just Be Good to Me", interspersed with the requisite slower ballad tracks such as the formulaic fantasy "My First Night With You".

Sweep away all the help and famous names, though, and there'd still be a tremendous raw vocal talent operating here. Mercifully, for the most part Cox eschews the kind of vocal showboating so beloved of the genre, concentrating on delivering the emotion direct and undiluted, without taking detours at every other note along the way. The lasting impression here is of talent reined tightly in, with plenty of room to expand. A multi-platinum prospect.