Reviewed on this page:
Mýa - Fear Of Flying - Moodring - Liberation - Sugar & Spice - Beauty & The Streets, Vol. 1 - K.I.S.S.
DC-born Mýa Harrison came to fame as a teenager in 1998, singing the hook on the Pras/Ol' Dirty Bastard hit "Ghetto Superstar," and has bounced around since then, notching a hit or solid album from time to time, but more often stuck on the lower rungs of celebrity (runner-up on Dancing With The Stars, stuff like that).
The problem for Mýa as a pop artist is that she falls in the cracks: she's got enough talent as a songwriter and producer that she doesn't want to be a mouthpiece for some hotshot Svengali, but she doesn't have enough talent to forge her own course or top the charts on her own, so she ends up chasing trends and filling her albums with halfway-decent, forgettable tunes.
Her voice is flexible, with an easy sensuality that's more striking the more you listen, but she's not distinctive, and since her personality isn't larger-than-life either - the reason she got so badly outshined on the big-name "Lady Marmalade" remake - she ends up with a lot of semi-sweet, semi-sassy songs about relationships. In the age of thirty-second previews, Mýa makes it far too easy to hit the Skip button. But 2003's Moodring is a solid piece of work, and nearly all of her albums show compelling evidence of her talent in one place or another.
The opening "What Cha Say," which uses an astonishingly prominent funk bass lick to drive a surprisingly slinky seduction scenario - and to a lesser extent, the sly shuffle "We're Gonna Make You Dance" - show how good and original Harrison can be. The rest of the disc, though, reveals how depressingly ordinary she usually is ("Anytime You Want Me," sampling "Batdance").
The midtempo "It's All About Me" - one of several tracks she co-wrote with Darryl Pearson - was a big hit, thanks to a guest shot from then-hot Sisqo and a melody borrowed from Destiny's Child's "No No No." The ballads "Movin' On" and "My First Night With You" (by Diane Warren and Babyface) also charted.
Missy Elliott pops up on "Bye Bye," which she co-wrote/produced, but it's a flat recycling of the Pointer Sisters classic better adapted by Salt-N-Pepa.
Fear Of Flying (2000)
Often Harrison manages to whip up a vibe that's free-spirited but mellow, on tunes that are fun without trying too hard ("Pussycats," produced by Wyclef Jean).
The single "Case Of The Ex," an early Tricky Stewart production, is a kinetic concoction of stuttering keyboards.
The lesser tracks are a mixed bag -
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis's "Free" is ordinary late 90s R&B until it drops in an oddly appropriate salsa piano line;
"Again And Again" is a funky pleasure if you don't worry about the borrowings from Mother's Finest's "Baby Love" - but if you get swept up in the record, you'll pardon the weak spots (a cover of the Michael Jackson hit "Lady [Man] In My Life").
Guests include Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes ("Takin' Me Over") and Jadakiss ("The Best Of Me"); producers include Robin Thicke and Swiss Beatz.
In 2001, Mýa appeared with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim and Pink (plus ad libs from co-producer Elliott) on a hugely successful cover of Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
Mya co-wrote and co-produced most of this album, her
third, and it's a solid piece of work, mostly modern R&B but with plenty of other influences.
The opening "My Love Is Like... Wo" - produced with incidental vocals by Elliott - is
catchy hip hop soul with Destiny's Child-like vocal harmonies. Rockwilder
produced the heavy electro-funk "Why You Gotta Look So Good?" with a rap by Lloyd Banks.
Mya also comes across with a fiery, horn-heavy funk tune ("Sophisticated Lady"), countering the retro R & B trend toward downtempo fare.
Across the mix of styles, the album is given consistency by low-key but imaginative string arrangements by Ron
Fair (the tuneful ballad "Fallen"). Her lyrics deal with romance as usual, often from an atypical angle ("Late," about a missed period).
Not every tune is memorable, but by the time you get to Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis ballad "Anatomy 1On1"
and the reggae "Things Come & Go" she's built up enough goodwill that you'll probably go with it.
The bonus track is a cover of Eugene McDaniels's bluesy "Compared To What";
there's also a bubblegum dance cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'."
With sad irony, Liberation was shelved several times, finally released for download only in Japan.
Dull and dispirited, largely, as Harrison's attempts to keep up with hip hop soul are dated - "I Am" and "Walka Not A Talka" (with Snoop Dogg) recall Timbaland circa 2001 - and the usual bedroom jams ("Lights Go Off") lack spark. Most of the tracks are impactless ("Lock U Down" with Lil' Wayne) or worse ("Still A Woman"), but there are a couple of decent tunes with outstanding lyrics: the confessional kissoff "All In The Name Of Love" and the "you can have him" anthem "Give The Chick A Hand."
Sugar & Spice (2008)
A Japan-only release again, but at least this time they printed physical copies. Mostly written and produced with Christopher Moore, and I don't know if they intentionally aimed for maximum triviality but they achieved it: it's all noisy, would-be club hit dance tracks ("Must Be The Music," which sounds like a Britney Spears outtake) and banal ballads ("One For You"; "Cry No More"). "Ego Trippin'" is little more than its repeated Marvin Gaye sample, and that's perhaps the most substantial tune here.
Beauty & The Streets, Vol. 1 (2009)
In theory this is a mixtape showcasing Mýa's stable of artists, but in practice she's singing lead on nearly every song, and the tracks are as professionally done as anything on the previous two releases. But maybe lowering expectations put her into a better headspace, because it's her best work since Moodring. Though she's still working with Moore, and dipping back into hip hop soul, this time quality tunes are abundant in both dance (the guitar-driven grind "Control Freak") and ballad ("The Only One") modes. It's hard to portray aggressive sexuality without coming off as cartoonish, but she's impressively convincing on numbers like "Go Hard Or Go Home" and "Manaholic,"
while proving she's a lover and a fighter on "Black Out." Don't get me wrong: though overall it exceeded my expectations, plenty of the songs are objectionable on grounds of politics (the absurdly subservient "Full Service"), taste ("About My B.I.," in a faux Rihanna accent) or just entertainment ("$ Can't Buy My Love," recycled from Sugar & Spice).
Another Japan-only release (Mýa's catching up with Shonen Knife in that category), not as dreadful as Sugar & Spice but in the same ball park. There are clattery dance tunes ("Fabulous Life," a Ke$ha knockoff) and love songs ("Mr. Incredible"), neither of which come within spitting distance of a real emotion. Though she's never been a belter, her voice sounds tinier than usual, which dooms the otherwise worthy, Stevie-style lost love song "Love Comes Love Goes."
There are a few nice moments, though: "Runnin' Back" (featuring Iyaz) is a kinetic pop song with a well-used descending piano line; "Alive" has a shimmering J-Pop vibe.
Guests include Sean Paul ("Rear View Mirror") and Marques Houston (the trite weeper "Love Me Some You").