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Sapphire by Teena Marie
Released: May 2006
Label: Cash Money
Retreating from the overwrought gangsta-posturing of her previous release, 2004's La Don , 1980s diva Teena Maria delivers an album that is long on twinkling R&B torch songs, lite gospel trifles and hookless, hip-hop inflected ballads. No one will ever say that Teena has a great technical voice -- her registry is rather limited and she's purely syllabic, as opposed to melisma freaks like Beyonce or Mariah -- but her voice does have an earthy gravity that elevates Sapphire beyond the mediocrity it constantly threatens to dip into.
Sam Chennault