Craig David: Born To Do It

Craig David: Born To Do It

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Craig David

Album: Born To Do It
Label: Atlantic

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Almost instantaneously, Craig David has emerged as an international star, a 20-year-old with nearly five million albums sold and high-profile endorsements from the diverse likes of Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, and Travis' Fran Healy. David's work owes a heavily articulated public debt to Terence Trent D'Arby, but his smooth, assured, honeyed voice more noticeably brings to mind a male Tracy Chapman. Still, his poppy R&B is unburdened by the former's indulgences or the latter's social conscience, and, while it takes about 15 seconds of Born To Do It to confirm David's star power, it doesn't take much longer to clarify that his creative ambitions don't yet match his commercial ones. An irresistibly slick dance-pop workout, the album-opening hit single "Fill Me In" works nicely within the confines of Born To Do It's mostly rigid formula, marrying David's sweet, elastic voice to an overdriven hook. "Key To My Heart" sounds like a colossal hit, too; it combines all the best elements of the lite R&B smothering the pop charts. But the album is burdened by hunks of busy cheese ("Can't Be Messing 'Round"), the occasional ill-advised rap ("Time To Party"), and the ridiculous love-man ballad "Booty Man," which, fortunately for David, is just dumb enough to be a minor guilty pleasure. (Less appealing is his tendency to name-check himself on many of the album's songs.) Overseas, the singer has aligned himself with more ambitious electronic music—he's a major player in the U.K.'s two-step garage movement—but by the time Born To Do It winds down with the less accessible "Rewind" (a 1999 single in Europe), the experimentation feels like a token or an afterthought. David's stardom in America seems almost predestined, and every track here is preferable to the bland boy-band fluff surrounding him on Top 40 radio playlists. But in the future, it'd be nice to hear David using his success as an excuse to stretch out creatively. In the meantime, he's just a big fish in a very shallow pond.

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