Coko - The Winner in Me (2009)

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Those who expected Coko's gospel pilgrimage to be a one-time thing best prepare themselves for another expedition. Long-time front lady of urban R&B trio SWV, Cheryl "Coko" Clemons returns with her sophomore stint The Winner in Me. This time around, the songstress gets a little more personal and even beefs up the musical creativity some. She opens up and examines her heart on songs like the pop ballad "Rescue Me" and the title track without the album hinging too tightly on sob stories. Her slick interplay with the Supremes' gem, "Reflections," on the opening sequence of "Let Me Go," raises the album's momentum (although the tactic does whimper away once the track's heavier beats take over). On Winner, Coko runs across a pair of dance ditties ("Might Be My Last Time," "The Joy of the Lord"), channeling some of her mainstream origins, but throughout the project she is mostly occupied with strong doses of careful Israel Houghton and Karen Clark-Sheard interpretations. That's not really a bad thing, but coming from 2008's Grateful (an opulent album that possessed several radio-ready singles and hard-hitting jams) after a successful decade-long, genre-defining contemporary R&B career, you kinda wished Coko incorporated more of her old musical trademarks into her new spiritually-enhanced autobiographies.

Notable songs: "Let Me Go," "The Joy of the Lord," "Rescue Me," "Wait" and "The Winner in Me"

Vocals: 3 stars
Lyrics: 3 stars
Music: 2.5 stars
Production: 2.5 stars
Soul Tracks Call: Recommended

By J. Matthew Cobb