After garnering adjectives like "jazzy" and "brooding" with her 2002 debut, A Love Story, Vivian Green is back with a more pop-oriented album. On Vivian, the Philly-raised chanteuse comes across as the perfect R&B crooner for would-be Aaliyah fans who seek innocence and sincerity in the genre: less world-weary than Jill Scott, sweeter than Mariah Carey, hookier than Truth Hurts. Green's voice is infectious and bubbly -- a gospel choirgirl's waifish contralto that lacks the range and heft of some of her forebears from Philadelphia's mid-'90s neo-soul wave, but makes pretty harmonies all the same. Her lyrics are simple and accessible to boot: ecstatic odes to former lovers coupled with tales of the proverbial man-who-done-me-wrong who appeared in so many '60s and '70s R&B songs. Though Green doesn't stray from the three-chords-and-a bridge structure of garden-variety R&B songs, Vivian has a few stand-outs that pack subtler chord voicings and more of a hip-hop feel than most contemporary R&B. The tracks you'll keep turning to are "Under My Skin" (super-spare with a haunting piano and cello), "Mad" (featuring roots-rock acoustic guitar), and "Sweet Memory," on which Green sounds so earnest, nostalgic, and clean that it's easy to overlook her penchant for schmaltz.
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