Lakisha Jones - So Glad I'm Me (2009)

Lakisha Jones
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In the first baseball game I played after moving to a new town, I hit four-for-four and made one incredible play after another in the infield.  The coach of my new team was convinced he had a star on his hands.  Unfortunately, I had actually played the game of my life, and was never able to again meet the inflated expectations that my auspicious debut had created. 

My baseball experience is similar to what LaKisha Jones encountered as a contestant in the 6th season of American Idol.  During a preliminary round of the show, Jones took on Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," a risky song that would reveal a vocally-challenged wannabe in the first few bars.

In the first baseball game I played after moving to a new town, I hit four-for-four and made one incredible play after another in the infield.  The coach of my new team was convinced he had a star on his hands.  Unfortunately, I had actually played the game of my life, and was never able to again meet the inflated expectations that my auspicious debut had created. 

My baseball experience is similar to what LaKisha Jones encountered as a contestant in the 6th season of American Idol.  During a preliminary round of the show, Jones took on Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," a risky song that would reveal a vocally-challenged wannabe in the first few bars. LaKisha nailed it in memorable fashion, giving perhaps the finest preliminary performance in Idol history and prompting Simon Cowell to declare her as the singer to beat in that year's competition.  Unfortunately, it was a moment that she never again matched, particularly in light of the lofty expectations it had raised.  Despite the reality check that the next several weeks' performances brought to her and the judges, Jones proved she was still a fine - if not singular - vocalist.  She ultimately exited as the season's third runner up.

Two years later, now a married woman far removed from her hometown of Flint, Michigan and her adopted Houston, LaKisha has finally released her first album, a mere two weeks after the debut of her more vaunted 6th season mate Melinda Doolittle.  And while the release dates of the two discs may be close, the paths taken by the two singers couldn't be more different.  Doolittle issued an unadulterated (and questionably executed) throwback album, focusing on jazz, blues and standards of a half century ago, while Jones on her debut, So Glad I'm Me, takes a decidedly urban adult contemporary slant.  The result for LaKisha is a disc that not only is more consistently pleasing than Doolittle's, but highlights her as a more complete artist than her time on television ever revealed.

Her Idol performance of "And I Am Telling You," combined with her struggles in other genres on the show, gave the impression that Jones was a belter, able to handle Gospel shouts but unable to adjust to more nuanced material.  Happily, she blows that unfair characterization away on So Glad I'm Me, sounding as comfortable displaying her inner Mary J on the upbeat title track as she does on the requisite big ballad "Bye Bye" or the attractive "Beautiful Girl" (a love song for her five year old daughter).  

In fact, the versatility LaKisha shows on So Glad is perhaps the album's brightest feature. Rather than suffer the dreaded curse of Jennifer Holliday, she instead appears to be an artist capable of following in the tracks of more enduring, flexible singers like Kelly Price. Jones' development is never more evident than on a 70s-style adult oriented cut like "Fade Away"or the radio-ready midtempo "Nothing," where she comes off as both authentic and - dare we say - flirty.  She even has the audacity to tackle a Whitney cover, providing a faithful remake of "You Give Good Love" that is as likeable as the original.

The material on So Glad I'm Me is not earth-shattering, but it is solid and well sequenced, providing enough hooks and tempo changes to keeps things interesting throughout, and more importantly, showcasing LaKisha Jones as a talented singer who is worthy of the career into which Idol thrust her.  And it will be a livelihood that is much longer than my career in baseball.  Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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