Back in 2002, Mario sucker-punched B2K and Lil’ Bow Wow with “Just a Friend 2002,” thus forcing them to make room for his self-titled debut. Now he returns with Turning Point, and he’s armed with a hit (“Let Me Love You”), a maturing voice and a swagger that should push him into the old superstardom abyss. His timing is on, dude has little competition — Usher’s too far off the radar and the rest of the teeny R&B field is limp and weak.
By keeping things generally uptempo and enlisting up-to-the-moment producers (Scott Storch and Lil’ Jon) and scoring killer cameos (Jadakiss and T.I.), Mario shows he can pop with the best of them. But he takes a step beyond simple singsong tune monotony by keeping his lyrics and subjects imaginative. On “Like Me Real Hard” he assures a lover that she can keep her heart; “How Could You” finds his vulnerable inner pimp querying a cheating girl how she could tutor another guy on his bedroom tricks. (Oh, just picture sympathetic women in clubs everywhere lobbing panties at happy DJs.) With the exception of the painfully corny “Nikes Fresh Out the Box,” and the unnecessary “Love You” remix, Mario puts together a digestible, enjoyable sophomore stab.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.