If Tommy Mottola had his way, Tarralyn Ramsey’s debut would be filled entirely with songs like “Up Against All Odds,” an inspirational track about “trusting and believing in the miracles of love.” It’s the kind of obligatory cookie-cutter ballad that every talent contest winner from Kelly Clarkson to Ramsey, the inaugural winner of VH1’s Born To Diva, is forced to sing. This one, however, is particularly insipid, and it fails to capture her truly remarkable talent that was evident throughout the show. Mottola, who signed Ramsey to the recently resurrected Casablanca Records, seems surprisingly hands-off (perhaps if he were sleeping with her, things would be different), leaving executive producer duties to Corey Rooney, who’s worked with the former Sony exec’s ex-wife Mariah, current wife Thalia, as well as Marc Anthony’s new wife Jennifer Lopez). The result is a mixed bag of urban-leaning R&B (“Where You Are,” which takes its hook from the Motown classic “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” and the reggae-hued “Fly Away”) and shoestring slow songs (the best ballad, “Made For You,” is infinitely more sufferable than “Up Against All Odds,” but it’s still no “I Will Always Love You”). Ramsey, who released a gospel album a few years back, shines on the contemporary gospel number “10,000 Thank You’s,” and, surprisingly, the album’s funkier tracks like “Baby U Know,” an interpolation of Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You,” and “Gotta Have You,” bassline courtesy of ‘80s R&B group Imagination. Of course, it doesn’t bode well that the album’s best songs borrow so generously from other sources. There’s no question: Ramsey’s got the pipes (comparisons to Whitney Houston aren’t inappropriate), but she deserves better than this rather pedestrian assemblage of songs.
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