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[Off The Record]
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Kelly Price

Price’s second CD follows the tried and true parameters of new-jill radio pop. No surprise there given her history as a back-up singer and arranger for Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Notorious B.I.G., and Puff Daddy — but because her chosen genre is such a narrow one, she risks sounding generic. She needs superior songwriting and inspired vocals if she’s to get any individual attention, and the songwriting is indeed superior on the almost Millie Jackson–ish “Married Man,” “She Wants You,” and “At Least,” the Whitney Houston–inflected pop ballad “As We Lay,” and the album’s title number, where the more that Price has to say and comment on, the more forward she sounds. These eloquent songs bring out all the sass, the drollery, and the heat of passion that she’s capable of — she has range and power and heart to spare. Still, her flawless voice falls short of Millie Jackson’s brawn and brain, and it lacks Tina Turner’s oomph, Whitney Houston’s sweet fire, Janet Jackson’s wiggle. Truly great singers (one thinks of Billie Holiday) often show their stuff by making mediocre songs and worse sound immortal and more. Price in a mediocre song almost sounds as if she were doing her own karaoke.



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