Nayo Jones: You Asked For It

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Nayo Jones
My Name Is Nayo Soul
(PowerMove Records)

Grade: C+

Critics have been commenting on the death of R&B for a few years now, to the point it's almost universally accepted that the genre is artistically bankrupt, with few if any quality acts still practicing the time-honored craft of marrying rhythm to blues. As we've said in print before, guys like John Legend pretty much show the boring things have gotten in the scene.

The fact remains, there are two semi-successful brands of R&B . Males can still go hyper-sexual -- R. Kelly style -- and sell a few records. Women can still take their cue from the semi-politicized, vaguely Afrocentric style Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Lauren Hill have rode to popularity.

In some ways Phoenix's Nayo does a good job of the latter striking a pose as Phoenix's answer to the socially-conscious R&B ladies who rack up Grammys (among her top 19 MySpace friends: Badu, Scott, India.Aire, Common, Legend and Barack Obama) but, to the extent she tries to put her own stamp on the gimmick, she has mixed results on My Name is Nayo Soul.

Jones has the requisite great voice, and she shines at times ("Product of the Mind," "It Hurts") though she is, overall, incapable of crafting a compelling narrative. Though she's pictured speaking at an Obama rally on her MySpace, politics takes a backseat here, instead using her pressed plastic on a seemingly pointless intro ("Flamingo Jones") that seems a little too much like Beyonce's Sasha Fierce thing and at one point has her singing the musical scale.

"Bang Bang" is an uncredited take-off on Cher's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" that borrows the mood Nancy Sinatra used for her version, made famous by Kill Bill. When she does get serious, on "Product of the Mind," her vocal abilities outstrip her ability to come up with new or interesting points. Witness: "We could change, and first we've got to change out mind." Sadly, that's not quite as clever as "I'm starting with the man in the mirror."

Jones seems like a nice young lady -- she is, in fact, part of a duo with her father, Doc Jones -- but it's obvious this record is a first attempt. Hopefully she'll develop a stronger voice in the future, which, combined with her talent, could be a potent combo.

If you're a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to submit a CD for review, please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:

Martin Cizmar
You Asked For It
c/o Phoenix New Times
1201 E. Jefferson Street
Phoenix , AZ 85032

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