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Album review: Kristinia DeBarge's 'Exposed'

July 28, 2009 |  8:55 pm
Debarge_240_ In a summer well stocked with tween-friendly chart pop (Demi Lovato, Jordin Sparks and Ashley Tisdale), it helps to have some highly placed connections. Kristinia DeBarge boasts several: Her father, James, was a member of DeBarge, the popular '80s family band. The executive producer of her debut album is Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the powerful artist-turned-executive. And the sample in her hit single "Goodbye" is from Steam's 1969 smash "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," the sports-stadium staple so ubiquitous that it's still turning whatever it touches into Top 40 gold.

Accordingly, the pleasures on "Exposed" are familiar ones -- there's even a track titled "Cried Me a River." Another is called "Died in Your Eyes," though it's unlikely that 19-year-old DeBarge's target audience includes anyone old enough to remember the Cutting Crew hit its title echoes.

Of course, among pop's central virtues is the fact that on the radio, familiarity rarely breeds contempt. Although DeBarge, who'll open Britney Spears' arena tour later this year, has nothing unique to say about falling in or out of love, what she does have -- strong tunes, a nice voice and an ample supply of fresh-faced charm -- is far more important.

She's best in two tracks co-written by another savvy recycler, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic: "Future Love," originally recorded last year by the ill-fated boy band Varsity Fanclub, and "Speak Up," which Tedder also produced in his signature emo-soul style (think of Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love"). Neither is shocking; both are awesome.

-- Mikael Wood

Kristinia DeBarge
"Exposed"
SodaPop / Island
Two and a half stars

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