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Album Review: Lil' Mo - "Pain & Paper"

A True Gem

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

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Album Review: Lil' Mo -

Album cover © Honeychild Entertainment

Lil' Mo's star has faded somewhat in recent years, so that makes it a mild surprise that her third album, Pain & Paper is so strong. But although she's not on top of the charts like she was when her biggest hit, "Superwoman Pt. 2" was popular in 2001, Mo's mojo definitely hasn't dried up. In fact, now that she's on her own label and doesn't have record company execs trying to mold her, she might be better than ever as an artist. Pain & Paper, like another indie R&B album that was released in 2007, Sunshine Anderson's Sunshine at Midnight, is a true gem that probably won't get a fraction of the attention it deserves.

Depth, Substance and Meaning

One of the things that makes Pain & Paper so compelling is the subject matter. Mo's not one to focus on songs about partying or the like. Her songs are packed with depth, substance and meaning. Among the prime examples are "Heartbeat," a fictionalized story about Mo's man getting shot at a nightclub; "Lucky Her," about an ex-boyfriend getting married to another woman; and "Youngin'," about dating a younger man.

One of the strongest songs, both lyrically and vocally is "Broken Heart," about - you got it - being broken hearted and the emotional and physical pain it causes: "There's been an accident, please call 911/Please call an ambulance, it's been a hit and run/I can't think right, I can't see straight/ain't got no appetite, been havin' chest pains."

The album's full of intelligent, well-written songs and strongly emotive vocals. And despite being an independent artist not on a major label, the song production is definitely not bargain basement. Another plus is that Mo is still young enough that she can still relate to and bond with people and their 20s and early 30s. In fact, there's quite a hip-hop presence on the album, with such rappers as Jim Jones, Da Brat, Fabolous and Trina appearing on various tracks. Which makes sense, since Mo's the self-proclaimed "Godmother of Hip-Hop & R&B." Fortunately, hip-hop isn't too prevalent here.

But Mo, who doesn't turn 30 until 2008, still has the vocal and stylistic maturity to also appeal people in their late 30s and 40s, making this the rare R&B album that has a lot for fans of traditional R&B as well as the more modern type.

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