Dionyza - Quite Like Me (2008)

Dionyza
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In the world of modern R&B music, there is typically an inverse relationship between the quality of the CD and the raciness of its cover.  One attractive but vocally challenged female singer after another has posed provocatively on the front of her CD, providing a beautiful wrapping on a sad gag gift: a by-the-numbers collection of faceless dance tunes and disposable ballads.  It is the ultimate head fake; the musical equivalent of a pick-pocket who does a trick to attract your attention while his partner steals your wallet. 

So when a disc like Dionyza's debut album, Quite Like Me, is issued with its cleavage-filled front photo, a reviewer's first reaction is a groan: we've seen this movie too many times before.  But the young chanteuse gives her own head fake -- she delivers a shockingly infectious, balanced disc that is even more attention-grabbing than its provocative cover. 

In the world of modern R&B music, there is typically an inverse relationship between the quality of the CD and the raciness of its cover.  One attractive but vocally challenged female singer after another has posed provocatively on the front of her CD, providing a beautiful wrapping on a sad gag gift: a by-the-numbers collection of faceless dance tunes and disposable ballads.  It is the ultimate head fake; the musical equivalent of a pick-pocket who does a trick to attract your attention while his partner steals your wallet. 

So when a disc like Dionyza's debut album, Quite Like Me, is issued with its cleavage-filled front photo, a reviewer's first reaction is a groan: we've seen this movie too many times before.  But the young chanteuse gives her own head fake -- she delivers a shockingly infectious, balanced disc that is even more attention-grabbing than its provocative cover. 

The daughter of former Motown songwriters Michael and Brenda Sutton, Dionyza (named after a character in Shakespeare's Paraclese) has been known for several years around her native L.A. as a top-notch background singer.  And here she's used her time in the "biz" to put together an A-list team of collaborators for her debut album, including Rashod Holiday & Sauce (Ne-Yo), David Frank (The System), Jared Gosslin (Macy Gray) and Nate Butler (3LW). 

The disc starts off strongly with "I Told Myself," a playa-busting track co-written with Robbie Nevil ("C'est La Vie") that indirectly samples a 70s composition by Dionyza's parents, and continues with one irresistible cut after another. "If This Could Be Love" is a wonderful 80's-style duet that Dionyza mentor Teena Marie would kill for and even better is the thumping, ominous midtempo, "If It Kills."  And those tracks are indicative of a consistent strength on Quite Like Me: the ability to hearken back to classic soul sounds while making the album thoroughly contemporary.  It is a balancing act that this disc handles as well as any of the past year.  But behind it all is Dionyza's keen sense of melody.  Nearly every song -- from the Janet-like "Practice Makes Perfect" to the sexy Leon Ware-ish "Give It To Me" to the funky, electronic "Stir It Up" to the earnest ballad "Whole" and the UAC gem "Today Will Soon Be Yesterday" -- is beautifully hooky and memorable. 

Quite Like Me is really a left-field release; a disc that consciously slants toward a young R&B audience, but has the sense of melody, production and vocals of a pop/soul record that could have been a hit twenty years ago.  It is another head fake by this young artist.  Dionyza makes more of an impression with her musical talent than with her striking-but-contrived CD artwork, and happily demonstrates a case where the book is surprisingly better than its attractive cover. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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