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[Off The Record]
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Puff Daddy has always been at least as good a businessman as he is a producer, so his latest shrewd move — signing this photogenic group of singing Lolitas from LA to resuscitate his flagging Bad Boy label — should come as no surprise. And given his track record as the man behind some of the most memorable mainstream hip-hop tracks of all time, it also shouldn’t be surprising that he takes well to the fluffy rhythms and sunny melodies of teen pop.

Puffy himself had a hand in fewer than half the tracks here, assembling a capable crew of behind-the-scenes R&B vets to take care of the rest. Their biggest score is the pattering lead single, “He Loves U Not,” where Holly, Diana, Melissa, and Ashley slay the cherry-lipped competition and save all the cutest boys for themselves. Puffy dials up some frantic synth fingering and a thick bass line on his greatest contribution, “What We Gonna Do About Us,” and he throws in a paean to his own youth with a slick rewrite of New Edition’s “Mr. Telephone Man.” His engaging Quincy Jones/Nile Rodgers style of lite funk rubs off on the second-string producers, and even the ballads hold their own. Dream themselves don’t command much of the spotlight, but when the material is this much fun, it doesn’t really matter.



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