Dublin, Ireland, is the unusual birthplace of teen sensation Samantha Mumba, whose urban style and American-accented singing makes her sound like TLC's little sister. Mumba dropped out of school when she was 17 to produce her first album, which contains musical stylings that sound like they were generated by someone much older. School itself was a great preparation for her musical career, however, because Mumba attended Dublin's Billie Barry Stage School from the time she was three to 15. That school also produced members of the British boy band Westlife and provided her with the beginnings of her education in showbiz. In 2000 she released her debut album on Polydor, Gotta Tell You, which featured heavy pop production and an aggressive, frank style which helped set her apart from the sea of teen stars.
© Stacia Proefrock /TiVo
© Stacia Proefrock /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | A&M
Like many talented teenage pop singers, Samantha Mumba was initially promoted on the strength of her talent -- as in, "Isn't she much more talented than any other singer of her age?" It is true that Mumba is a fine singer, with a voice that sounds richer than most teen singers, and her material on her debut Gotta Tell You isn't strictly flimsy teen pop. It's more soulful and pretty well-constructed, sultry without veering into Lolita territory. In short, this is a fine product, a sterling example of immaculately crafted dance-pop and radio-ready ballads. If there's any problem, it's that, apart from "Body II Body," which weirdly appropriates David Bowie's icy "Ashes to Ashes" for a seduction number, none of this is particularly memorable without repeated spins. After those plays, it still seems like Gotta Tell You is a little too heavy on filler -- the singles, like "Gotta Tell You" and "Baby, Come Over (This Is Our Night)" are what stand out, along with the slow-burning closer, "Lately" -- but it's still better crafted than much teen pop, and it's delivered with conviction by Mumba. It's not a stunner, but it's satisfying on its own (albeit ephemeral) terms, and it sets her up well for greater things. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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