Best known for their Missy Elliott-penned hit “Where My Girls At,” 702 are all grown-up and have regrouped for their third album, Star. She’kspere mans the boards on several tracks, including the opening track, “Let Your Hair Down,” a playful ditty with an infectious hook that triumphantly captures the song’s missive, and “Feelings,” a minimalist track with ‘80s-era programming and a luscious Destiny’s Child-style vocal arrangement. Elsewhere, the sultry, understated “Trouble” inventively features Kool & the Gang’s oft-sampled “Jungle Boogie”; rather than just a lazy replay, the sample is incorporated in opaque, snug fashion. The second half of the album, however, is a bit less successful. “Reality” is the type of woe-is-me diatribe that even sounds sore coming from a bona fide superstar, while the seven-and-a-half-minute “Places” is an overwrought Janet-esque ballad, complete with coos, whispers and thunder claps. The ubiquitous Pharrell Williams makes a guest appearance on the Neptunes-helmed “I Still Love You”; the song’s repetitive lyrics are a low point for the star production team (“It don’t take a rocket scientist to know I love you”). The Neptunes’s other contribution, “Star,” is a surefire redemption in which the trio ruminate on the downside of desire: “I honestly think I’m impairing my health…It’s probably why I dance with myself.” Other girl groups may have bigger and better pipes, but with songs like this, 702 comes closest to capturing the buttery warm harmonies of Diana Ross and the Supremes—Destiny’s Child be damned. Star exists to prove that surprises can indeed be pleasant.
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