Cooing it, wailing it -- but feeling it?


"LeToya" (Capitol)

* * 1/2

SAY her name, say her name -- at last. Houston-born R&B; diva LeToya (last name: Luckett) departed Destiny's Child, along with fellow member Latavia Roberson, not long after 1999's "The Writing's on the Wall" came out. But, despite being associated with the hits "Say My Name" and "Bills Bills Bills," she's just now enjoying her own success with the urban hit "Torn," a should-I-stay-or-should-I-go love song that owes its existence to the Stylistics' saccharine soul classic "You Are Everything."

LeToya's debut blends that old-school '70s R&B; feeling with super-fresh hip-hop touches, including the trippy Houston-spawned "chopped and screwed" style, heard on the trifling shout-out "Gangsta Grillz," with Mike Jones and Killa Kyleon. Better fare includes "All Eyes on Me," a sinuous belly dance of seductive vocals, icy synths and organic horns, and the slow jam "Obvious," lamenting a fiance not nearly as ready to settle down as his proposal once indicated.

Still, although LeToya delights in cooing breathily and wailing heartily (in a voice more robust than Beyonce's), she only rarely convinces us she's really feeling it. Despite the specific romantic dilemmas and delights -- trying to win back an old flame ("She Don't"), happily kissing off a bad love ("I'm Good"), and the ol' I'm-ready-to-please-you-baby sexy ballad ("This Song") -- the emotions are often generic. On the other hand, LeToya is too proud to beg; she stands firm on the same strong-woman ground occupied by DC and Beyonce. And that never gets old.

-- Natalie Nichols

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