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Album review: Lady Sovereign's 'Jigsaw'

April 6, 2009 |  6:13 pm

Ladysov_jig When British rapper Lady Sovereign first emerged in 2005 with the gum-smacking, trunk-rattling single "Cha Ching," she seemed to be the grime genre's best potential ambassador to the American pop charts. Her career since then, however, has been an attempt to find a singular sound among many different styles. Is she a boozier, potty-mouthed Gwen Stefani? An heir to the hip-hop traditions of Def Jam, her onetime label? Or a talented but scattershot MC still escaping the whiff of novelty?

Her second album, "Jigsaw," tries to find common ground in a now-ubiquitous strain of electro-flavored club rap. It's sonically a good fit for her nimble and still undeniable flow, but the wheels come off whenever Sov's newfound earnestness undermines her insouciant appeal.

Take her Dr. Luke collaboration "So Human," which swipes the bass line and steel-drum figure from the Cure's "Close to Me" to carry a generic had-a-bad-day lament.

The title track is phoned-in Cat Power bedroom pop that squanders her endearing MC skills.

Even her more typically buoyant dance tunes seem uninspired, from the grating vocal effects on "I Got You Dancing" and "Food Play" to the lumbering bass on "Pennies." The occasional high points, like the incessant techno of "Let's Be Mates," are stark reminders of how "Jigsaw" is the last thing we expected from Lady Sov -- a record that's just not a lot of fun.

-- August Brown

Lady Sovereign

Midget Records / EMI
Two stars