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March 30, 2007

Shortcuts—Joss Stone's Introducing Joss Stone

Aretha Franklin’s forte was demanding just a little bit of respect with her voice—informing men around the world with her melodically-tinged Truth Ad that she could more than fulfill all of their wants and needs. Decades later the same lyrical message and vocal prowess are shamelessly flaunted throughout Joss Stone’s newest release.

This is not Stone’s first release, but it is a musical representation of everything that she is. On her EP, The Soul Sessions, her passionate voice was simply another instrument in a collection of timeless musicians, featuring Timmy Thomas, Benny Latimore, Little Beaver, and Betty Wright.

However, on her next adventure, Mind, Body & Soul, songs like “You Had Me,” “Security,” and “Less Is More” induced little beyond a yawn. And this, to me, is the reason why Stone needed to be properly reintroduced to the world of music with her latest release.

Rather than using fancy synthesized melodies like every other crap-hop song on the radio, Stone and Raphael Saadiq energize songs with a shot of retro flavor more powerful than the triple grande vanilla latte you had at Starbucks this morning. “Work it,” Stone calls out in the funky “Head Turner,” and on “Put Your Hands On Me,” Mix Master Mike steals grooves from the ’70s and forces them to play nice with his eccentric scratching.

“Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do” is the lovechild of Stone and rapper Common, born out of Common’s laidback yet uplifting personality and Stone’s eager heart. In “Music,” Stone inspires a resurrection almost as powerful as that of Jesus Christ himself by bringing the legendary Lauryn Hill back to the music scene. Hill blessed the deep and meaningful lyrics to make this track the theme of Stone’s “introduction.”

Bass digs deep in “Bad Habit,” a song more addictive than “Fergalicious.” Stone puts more funk into the word “tasty” in one try than Fergie does in several. “Catch me/ Catch me/ I’m falling/ I’m falling in love with you,” she begins, surrounded by beautiful harmonies, harps, bells, and relentless guitars in “Proper Nice.”

The most powerful four-and-a-half minutes on this album live in “What Were We Thinking.” On the track, Stone’s voice reeks of hurt and pain but still yearns for resolution. And that is what makes this album that much more powerful than any of its predecessors—it is obvious that she is in tune with every note, every phrase, and every song of this album. If that’s not something to tell you ’bout, I don’t know what is.