Crazy in Like

Washington City Paper | June 2, 2006
Earlier this year an interviewer asked Christina Milian about criticisms that she’s biting Beyoncé’s style. “Oh gosh! Well that’s not true!” she responded. “Do people think that every light skin Black girl that has blonde hair has to say that she wants to be like her?”

Well, hate it or love it, Beyoncé’s carefully nuanced formula—she can belt out a tune and seems really nice, but she’s not above appearing wet, half-naked, and/or in chains to sell albums—works. So record companies are pushing as many light-haired, low-necklined young women off R&B assembly lines as they can in hopes that the general public can’t tell one unnaturally blonde, voluptuous, cap-toothed singer from another.

Such is the case with songstresses Milian and Rihanna. And what makes their Beyoncification so odd is that Beyoncé’s boyfriend, Jay-Z, is behind both their albums. As the relatively recent head of their label, Def Jam, He-yoncé has been unable to cultivate a strong R&B contender, so like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, he keeps creating clones of his beloved, hoping to get it right with each new iteration.

At first glance, Milian is a reasonable facsimile of the child upon whom destiny smiled. She’s gorgeous, no stranger to suggestive writhing, the object of immeasurable sexual attention. Her looks even rated a mention on last year’s Kanye West track “Late.” West runs through a litany of missed opportunities and tardy moments that have affected the rapper’s life and career, but he says a rendezvous with Milian—or, more specifically, a ménage with two lesbian Milian look-alikes—is one thing he could be on time for.

Unfortunately, for all Milian’s purring and body-baring, her music is diluted by her gruel-thin voice. So it’s not a huge surprise that production is the only aspect of So Amazin’ that lives up to its title. Miami sound squad Cool & Dre, the team behind Juvenile’s “Rodeo” and Terror Squad’s “Take Me Home,” have blessed Milian with an entire album of inspired dance tracks and innovative spins on the classic ballad that meld original instrumentation and well-disguised samples that sound like they should rightfully have gone to—oh, I don’t know—Beyoncé. But the team’s wizardry actually does Milian more harm than good: With a fluffy, unsubstantial canvas, as on Milian’s biggest hit to date, “Dip It Low,” the singer’s shallow, light vocals are less evident. But when she’s backed by decent music, every song leaves the listener mentally picking out another R&B singer who could’ve done the track justice.

Lead single “Say I”—despite a weird digression disguised as a guest spot that features Young Jeezy defending his parenting skills—is a snappy little puffed-up dance number on which Milian spends most of the 3:31 stuttering “I-I-I-I-I-I” like an unfaithful girlfriend caught sneaking through the back door. “Foolin’” takes Average White Band’s “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” to Miami with added congas and hand claps, and Milian uses the track to talks to the ladies about a man called “Mr. Big” who already has a girl but still wants to get at her. “If you’re foolin’/Only foolin’/All I ask is why,” goes the hook. Maybe because he’s married and just wants to sleep with you?

Cool & Dre’s most ballsy move on the album is “My Lovin’ Goes,” which is more an electronica track than an R&B one. Milian’s unpolished instrument is hardly up to the genre-bending challenge, so she goes for the next best thing: making convincing sex noises over the chorus, e.g., “My lovin’ goes uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh/My lovin’ it goes oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh.” Sadly, the song’s best point comes when the producers let the beat ride for almost a minute without vocal accompaniment.

So Amazin’ is Milian’s third album. The first two failed to make much of an impact on the charts, but when they were released, Milian was busy making teen movies—deep supporting roles in flicks such as American Pie and The Wood until she landed Love Don’t Cost a Thing with ex-boyfriend Nick Cannon. “Who’s Gonna Ride” is how she pays Cannon back for taking the public’s eye off her singing career: It’s a dis track on which Milian, with help from Three 6 Mafia, caps on her ex.

“You ain’t nothing but a buster/Still I find it so hard to believe/That I touched ya,” she sings, in addition to accusing him of taking her for granted and seeing other women. Things could get prickly at the next Def Jam event, though—rumor has his that Cannon is dating none other than labelmate Rihanna. Guess he couldn’t keep his Beyoncé clones straight, either.

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