Album: Joss Stone

Mind, Body & Soul, RELENTLESS
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The 17-year-old Brit-soul sensation could only ever get so far on a diet of cover versions alone - even ones as obscure as those on The Soul Sessions - so it's no great surprise to find Joss Stone co-writing almost all of the material on this follow-up album. And for a while it's fine, with Stone and her co-producers Betty Wright and Mike Mangini retaining the Southern deep-soul style of her debut on the opening track "Right to Be Wrong", adding just a soupçon of contemporary R&B sass in its independent-woman attitude. The mid-tempo ballad "Jet Lag" and the single "You Had Me" pull her closer to modern R&B, with the latter's dismissal of an unworthy lover executed with the businesslike hustle of a typical 21st-century diva. But not too many songs later, the quality has sagged badly, with tracks such as the draggy ballad "Security" and routine hands-off-my-man cut "Young at Heart" tugging one's finger inexorably towards the skip button, and the acoustic guitar-based folk-soul numb

The 17-year-old Brit-soul sensation could only ever get so far on a diet of cover versions alone - even ones as obscure as those on The Soul Sessions - so it's no great surprise to find Joss Stone co-writing almost all of the material on this follow-up album. And for a while it's fine, with Stone and her co-producers Betty Wright and Mike Mangini retaining the Southern deep-soul style of her debut on the opening track "Right to Be Wrong", adding just a soupçon of contemporary R&B sass in its independent-woman attitude. The mid-tempo ballad "Jet Lag" and the single "You Had Me" pull her closer to modern R&B, with the latter's dismissal of an unworthy lover executed with the businesslike hustle of a typical 21st-century diva. But not too many songs later, the quality has sagged badly, with tracks such as the draggy ballad "Security" and routine hands-off-my-man cut "Young at Heart" tugging one's finger inexorably towards the skip button, and the acoustic guitar-based folk-soul number "Understand" not really showing her voice off to its best advantage. Ultimately, too many of these songs sound forced, their conflicts bogus, as if she felt there needed to be some form of antagonism to animate their emotional topography: she seems to be always dissing suitors, rivals, even herself, when a simple assertion of devotion is often all that's needed.

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