Picks and Pans Review: Armed and Radio-Ready

updated 07/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Battlefield |

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"Why does love always feel like a battlefield? ... I guess you better go and get your armor." So sings Jordin Sparks, taking a lyrical cue from Pat Benatar, on the title-track highlight of her second album. If love is a battlefield, though, so is the pop scene, and the 2007 American Idol comes armed with plenty of radio-ready artillery. Song for song, it's easily superior to 2007's platinum Jordin Sparks. The strength of the tunes—and Sparks' vocals—helps make up for her lack of a singular identity. Instead, the CD plays up her versatility, going from the rock-edged "Battlefield" to the Lady Gaga-meets-Rihanna electro of "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)," which riffs on the 1983 Shannon hit "Let the Music Play." Meanwhile, "Faith," one of four songs that Sparks cowrote, is a gospel-tinged ballad that brings to mind a young Mariah Carey.

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