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Mario shows promising future

Courtney Wilson | Thursday, January 13, 2005

R&B songster Mario is back with a new look and a fresh style. His sophomore album, appropriately titled “Turning Point,” represents a maturing not only in his style, but his musical ambitions as well. At the age of 15, Mario released his first album, and gained a squad of teen followers with the remake of rapper Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” Now, at the age of 18, Mario attempts to extend his young fan base for a slightly older market. “Let Me Love You,” the album’s first single, reflects somewhat of a progression from his previous songs about puppy love to a more mature, relationship kind of love. The new song has already dominated radio airwaves nationwide, pushing record sales sky high, and allowing the single and the album to climb their way up the Billboard charts. Seeking the help of Scott Storch, the ever-popular producer of such recent hits as Beyonce Knowles’ “Baby Boy” and Fat Joe’s club favorite “Lean Back,” Mario has succeeded in creating an inspired album with soulful vocals and infectious beats. Great things can be expected from the R&B, semi Hip-Hop star. Often compared to leading songster Usher Raymond, Mario makes reference to these similarities on the CD’s first track, “18,” featuring J-Record label friend Cassidy. In it, he explains that he still has time to catch up to the older star, who coincidentally scored his first hit song at the same age of 15. If you insist on comparing the two stars, however, it must be said that “Boom,” track number three of the record, is a pale comparison to the Usher favorite, “Yeah!” that it seeks to reproduce. “Boom” attempts to pick up on the same clubby like sound of “Yeah!” by featuring the same Lil Jon as well as the Ludacris-ly comparable rapper Juvenille. Between the three artists, however, none bring enough capacity to save the song. Also featured on the CD is a remix of “Let Me Love You,” which offers an equally enjoyable party-like version featuring Jadakiss and T.I. Besides these few songs, Mario does not need much help in the making of this record. His smooth and soulful vocals are enough to carry the album, but nostalgic lyrics and catchy beats are what make this record an obvious hit.In addition to “Let Me Love You,” which is easily the best song on the entire CD, songs like “How Could You,” and the reggae beat “Girl I Need” recall an Usher-like sentiment to which many can easily relate. “How Could You” is reminiscent of a romance gone awry by what Mario refers to as a “ghetto karma sutra.” “Like Me Real Hard” is fun with lyrics that repeat, “You don’t have to love me, just like me real hard.” The CD undeniably sets out for a love-like theme, but maintains its youthful appeal with songs like “Couldn’t Say No” and “Nike’s Fresh Out the Box.” You know Mario is not going to get too serious on you when he compares a new love interest to the feeling of opening a fresh pair of kicks. Mario has come a long way from the young corn rowed kid we have seen on previous music videos such as “Braid My Hair.” In fact, the first scene of the “Let Me Love You” video shows him trading in his boyish cornrows for a more mature short cut, which in a way reflects the change in his music. Starting from a young age, Mario has successfully paved his way from belting out karaoke tunes with his mom and impromptu performances at the local barbershop, to a lucky break with music mogul Clive Davis. Mario surpasses his debut album “Just a Friend 2002,” and brings a superior thirteen track CD chock full of head bopping hits on “Turning Point.”