Tue, Dec 06, 2011 - Page 16 News List

CD reviews: Javier Colon; Rihanna; Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet

Javier Colon; COME THROUGH FOR YOU; Universal Republic

It wasn’t just Javier Colon’s high, supple, long-breathed, achingly sincere tenor that made him the winner on the premiere season of The Voice this year. It was also his personality as a family man, earnest striver and all-around nice guy. He doesn’t break character on his new album, Come Through for You, which is filled with advice like, “If you want to make it in love, you’ve got to be ready to give everything.”

But he is breaking with his pre-Voice career: The two albums he released on Capitol Records, in 2003 and 2006, when he was billed simply as Javier. On those albums, in music he sometimes described as acoustic soul, he wound his vocal curlicues around his own acoustic rhythm guitar or he swooped above staccato R ’n’ B electronics and funk samples. He was already playing the nice guy, although at the time his songs were more about flirtation than settling in. Yet a hit that could have placed him alongside Usher or Maxwell never happened.

His winning strategy on The Voice was to lavish his voice on rock-ballad benedictions, among them songs from Sarah McLachlan and Coldplay, and he has stayed with it for new songs on Come Through for You. So long, R ’n’ B and funk; hello, soft-rock for adult-contemporary radio.

Come Through for You is filled with marches and prospective sway-along anthems, like 1,000 Lights, a Coldplay-style collaboration with the songwriters of OneRepublic, and Raise Your Hand, on which Colon urges, “If you’ve ever felt like you’re falling apart, raise your hand.” The acoustic guitar is still there, now lightly strummed and picked in the sensitive-guy style of John Mayer, although it’s usually just a preamble to a big crescendo and more reassuring bromides: “We don’t need nothing, as long as we got love,” he sings in a duet with Natasha Bedingfield.

There are inspirational waltzes, Come Through for You and Echo, with Goo Goo Dolls aspirations, and there’s reggae-lite a la Jack Johnson in songs like Life Is Getting Better and Stand Up, in which Colon’s mentor on The Voice, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, joins him to extol happy-ending suburban love: “find a home, buy a car, buy a dog and there we are.”

The album stays kindly, polished and simpering all the way through, with only one surprise: the unromantic revelation that ends OK, Here’s the Truth. Colon’s skill as singer and songwriter is obvious, but now that he has national name recognition, blandness reigns.

— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

Distinctionlessness has become something of a calling card and a weapon for Rihanna, the most consistent pop star of the past five years. Last month she became the fastest solo artist in history to have had 20 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, slower only than the Beatles. And she has pumped out these hits with little regard for style or mood — breezy dance tracks rub up against poignant gothically ruptured rock-soul ballads. Her voice is, for the most part, certifiably blank, which is to say it belongs everywhere.

But it hasn’t always had a home. Talk That Talk (Island Def Jam), her sixth album, is maybe the first to suggest the place that’s been hiding in plain sight all along, placing Rihanna squarely at the center of the pop genre best suited for a singer of her fundamental evanescence — dance music, which conveniently is the mode du jour of contemporary R ’n’ B and pop.

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