It’s been a long time since No Air hasn’t it? Arguably the pinnacle of Jordin Sparks‘ uneven career (come on, Battlefield is just a bit overrated). The girl’s always had vocal chops, of that there’s no doubt, though like J-Hud and that ilk, she’s struggled to find a proper identity in both R&B or pop worlds.
The tone feels better set on Right Here Right Now, which will probably one day be labelled on Apple Music as a ‘Jordin Sparks Deep Cuts’ playlist. While it’s far away from the album’s strongest tracks, something like It Ain’t You ticks all the boxes of modern R&B – more so than perhaps Ciara did on her most recent outing – but then what do you expect when you lay down that (DJ) Mustard flavour of the month. As far as female empowerment anthems go, it’s quite an oddly uninspiring one, however there is some joy to be sought from lines like “You’re not an OG you’re an OMG”. Quite.
It’s quite refreshing to see Sparks stick to a dark R&B tone than try and collate a host of mongrel influences. There’s no sight of chart-offending bangers in the first third of the album, and that’s a damn good thing – tracks like 11:11 end up being some of the most mature and accomplished she’s ever delivered, husky late-night soul that’s certainly good for our own. Tell Him I Love Him and Unhappy carry that on, both remarkable genre pieces that really pocket where Sparks needs to be, while Double Tap (“you gotta let me know that you won’t double tap that ho”) is the Instagram anthem we never knew we needed.
It’s such a shame, then, that her previous pedigree might shadow what is her best work to date (seriously, the trap-led Left, Right is one of the best R&B songs of the year). And being a Jordin Sparks album, unfortunately she’s finding it difficult to leave behind her more commercial sounds – a Shaggy feature, while not as disastrous as it may sound on paper, feels out of place with everything around it while Boyz In The Hood is another one we can do without. Nevertheless, this album is a tremendous statement from Jordin Sparks – right here right now, this is exactly the sort of dark and mature record she should be making.
Right Here Right Now by Jordin Sparks can be ordered here.