Jordin Sparks Steps Up Her Game on ‘Right Here Right Now’
Jordin Sparks • Right Here Right Now • 19/Sony • Release Date: August 21, 2015
The best way to describe Jordin Sparks’ music career is…mixed. On the one hand, Sparks did quite well for herself with her debut album Jordin Sparks thanks to inescapable hit “No Air” with Chris Brown. Additionally, she broke out on the big screen with the lead role in Sparkle, even if the movie wasn’t a success per se. On the other hand, her sophomore album Battlefield saw much less support, never establishing Sparks’ footing.
Six years later, Sparks drops her best album by far, Right Here Right Now, but with lackadaisical promo, it seems doomed from the start. Still this review isn’t attacking questionable PR, but rather examining the album itself. The “second coming” it’s not by any means, it is the logical direction for the 25-year old.
There’s plenty to sink one’s teeth into with Right Here Right Now honestly. Sparks seems to embrace her more urban side, something that didn’t occur as much on her two previous albums. Guest features from B.o.B, J-Doe, 2 Chainz, Shaggy, and Elijah Blake certainly aid in shoring up her contemporary side more than ever. Arguably, the same could be said of Sparks’ ex Jason Derulo, but this isn’t about him. There’s no shame in keeping it “1000,” but that synth saxophone though… Overplayed pop trend?
“Work From Home” is definitely a break from past Sparks, taking a sexier direction. With Sparks being so young upon winning American Idol, obviously a direction with such innuendo would be a no-no. Now is the time for her to embrace her grown womanhood. Title track “Right Here Right Now” represents capable hip-hop oriented R&B given hot production work and Sparks’ approach. It’s modern through and through, with Sparks finally finding a lane that best fits. She keeps the swag up on the 2 Chainz assisted “Double Tap,” referencing “Instragram” and showing her feistiness by urging him no to “double tap that ho.”
J keeps it “G” on the infectious “Boyz In The Hood” – hey don’t every girl what a bad boy? But then, she goes classier, showing of her somewhat underrated powerhouse pipes that won her American Idol on “Silhouette.” Similarly on “They Don’t Give,” the focus is on Sparks’ fabulous instrument, taking an opposite approach and delivering a smooth, poised vocal.
“Left…Right?” slackens the tempo and embraces the moody, modern R&B sound that characterizes the genre in the 10s. This is sexy to the nth degree, reminding the listener of Kelly Rowland through and through – think “Motivation” in regards to the vibe. The vocal nuances are rock solid.
Some reggae comes by way of “Casual Love” (with Shaggy) while “Unhappy” finds the underrated Elijah Blake as Sparks’ duet partner – and a fine one at that. “11:11” returns to the draggy vibe that made “Left…Right?” so successful. Here, Sparks taps into her rich, sultry lower register, which is surprisingly as capable as the top of her voice.
Penultimate number “100 Years” keeps things sensual, only inching the tempo up a smidgen. It’s all good though, particularly the production work. “It Ain’t You” reignites the “bossiness” you might say – that hip-hop influenced R&B sound cultivated by DJ Mustard. Ultimately, it works, though that sound has become a bit overplayed and predictable.
All in all, Sparks delivers a solid contemporary R&B album on Right Here Right Now. Not to harp on the commercial but it’s a shame this particularly effort has so little promo because this is indeed the Jordin Sparks many would say they envisioned upon her American Idol victory. But even if it fails to sell as it deserves to, this is a good look for a young R&B artist.
Favorites: “Work From Home,” “Right Here Right Now,” “Boyz In The Hood” and “11:11”