Mario

Turning Point (J Records)

Why are adolescent R&B specialists generally more tolerable than their pop-tart counterparts? Because performers like Mario, a teen who's already received Clive Davis's stamp of approval, are encouraged to broaden their music's appeal rather than focus it on the demographic whose members still wistfully fantasize about their first pubic hair.

That's not to say Turning Point is quite as mature as its title and cover photo would like listeners to believe. Witness "Nikes Fresh Out the Box," a love ballad to a pair of sneakers that's musically slack (the bridge is borrowed from the Isley Brothers' "Shout," of all things) and contextually suspect; getting your rocks off using Air Jordans is never a good idea, even if they do have tongues. But "Boom," featuring Juvenile, is an effective slice of Usher lite, and "Let Me Love You" deserves its monster-hit status, since its insinuating, mid-tempo groove and Mario's luscious vocals are capable of inspiring even fully developed couples to lock lips 'n' hips.

Growing up has its advantages.

 
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