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Album review: Erika Jayne's 'Pretty Mess'

August 10, 2009 |  5:28 pm

Erika Bria Valente, Prince's latest protege included in his three-CD release earlier this year, should be looking over her shoulder. On her debut album "Pretty Mess," Angeleno Erika Jayne makes no bones about emulating the luxurious, erotic sounds trademarked by the Minneapolis mack daddy. She even covers Apollonia's hit "Sex Shooter" and enlists Sheila E's quaking drums on "Time to Realize."

Influences are unavoidable and Prince's ocean is many fathoms deep, but Jayne's obsession with one-note sexual fantasies keeps her bound -- albeit in satin handcuffs with feather trim -- to imitation instead of inventing her own style.

Jayne also loves a certain Detroit dancer, spinning as many dance-floor seductions as she does silky cocoons for lovers -- but both modes lack counterpoints, nor does she fully surrender to the id. We won't lose our bodies to the music if the singer sounds like she's waiting for Madonna's approval.

In "Beautiful," the prismatic beauty of diamonds, crystals and an aqua pool at midnight are all conjured, but it's not plush enough.

The production of the album (from dance-world luminaries Eric Kupper and Peter Rafelson, among others) excels at creating glistening surface texture, but it's impossible to sink deeply into "Pretty Mess." It's too ingratiating in lyric and intent; not only does Jayne want to sit in Prince's lap, she wants to sit in ours too.

There are some lively, inspired moments. The Parisian cabaret intro to "Everybody Wants Some" quickly scorches into hard candy synths, and "Roller Coaster," with its risque chants, will suit a frothed-up dance floor just fine, but "Pretty Mess" is too obvious. If only Jayne had played hard to get.

-- Margaret Wappler

Erika Jayne
"Pretty Mess"
E1 Music
Two stars