Campbell is at that awkward age. He’s no longer the whiz kid whose soaring rendition of Prince’s “Round and Round” from 1990’s “Graffiti Bridge” inspired comparisons to the young Michael Jackson. But at 19, he still isn’t old enough to deliver a mature love song with the sort of authority it demands. On his new album, virtually every song title is a cliche-- “Dry Your Eyes,” “You Don’t Have to Worry,” “I Got It Bad"--and adult yearnings and frustrations are alluded to only in the simplest terms.
But the main problem with “Back to the World” isn’t emotional naivete. It’s a lack of good material. The teenager’s still-developing voice is a technical marvel, lush and fluid, with a shimmering vibrato. But the songs--many of them co-written by Campbell--offer little melodic panache. On breezy hip-hop confections such as the title track and “I Need You,” the lithe beats and buoyant production carry him through. But once the grooves slow down, there’s little to admire other than his vocal prowess. That may have sufficed for a child prodigy, but if Campbell plans to have a long career, he’d better find some songs worthy of his chops.
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Tevin Campbell *5725
In 805 area code, call (818) 808-8463.