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Album Review

Mario, 'D.N.A.'

October 12, 2009

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R&B
Mario D.N.A.
J
ESSENTIAL “I Choose You’’

Mario appears on the cover of his new album built like a superhero and dressed in black. Looks are deceiving. On the lovely closer, “The Hardest Moment,’’ he sings that he’s “a man who’s not afraid to cry.’’ Now let’s face it: Most modern male R&B vocalists, who are too busy proclaiming that they invented sex, would not utter those words. Throughout this unfussy, beautifully sung set, the 23-year-old Mario taps into the tenderness of early Maxwell. Most of these minimally produced, short tracks are straight-up love songs without histrionics. “I Choose You’’ - so simple, so sweet - and “Soundtrack to My Broken Heart’’ showcase Mario’s vocals, which express things far beyond basic lyrical ideas. His pleading act of contrition, “Don’t Walk Away,’’ sounds convincing. Of course, there’s the sex-you-up track, “Ooh Baby,’’ on which he wryly sings, “Besides your high heels/ All you’re wearing is your hair.’’ One of the best tracks is “Starlight,’’ an uptempo groove about unabated passion; the beat is crisp and Mario’s singing so smooth that Stevie Wonder would approve. You don’t need forensics to see “D.N.A.’’ matches up to talent. (Out tomorrow)

KEN CAPOBIANCO