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Music Review

Will Smith - Born To Reign

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Columbia - 2002 - 54 minutes

Well, it's that time again: there's a new Will Smith movie in cinemas, there's a new Will Smith album in stores. Deja vu? It's three years since his last album 'Willennium' was released and was critically hammered along with the movie that accompanied it - the abysmal 'Wild Wild West' - but fresh from his Academy Award nomination for his role in 'Ali', is there a hint of maturity emerging from Smith?

'Men In Black II' soundtrack number 'Black Suits Comin (Nod Ya Head)' is the first release from this album, but it couldn't be further from the sound of the 1997 film and the world-wide hit single 'Men In Black'. It's got the catchy hook and the sing-along feature, but it's more rock'n'pop than hip-hop. What fans want, and expect, from Smith is an album of party hits like 'Gettin Jiggy Wit It' and 'Miami', what they get here is average and relatively disappointing.

It's actually quite mellow for Smith, but the reports of maturity and a harder sound are far from true. With the same old lyrics, this time we're nodding our heads instead of tapping our feet. 'I Can't Stop' shows potential with an alluring Spanish-guitar providing the rhythm. 'I Gotta Go Home' goes all Jamaican with its descending steel-drum chorus and 'Give Me Tonite' has enough 'bounce' for an LA car's suspension, but it's all more bedroom than living-room.

While the track titles suggest a collection of upbeat numbers, the reality is an album with little or no 'jiggy' (even Smith's wife and kid appear). The title may suggest the Fresh Prince has grown up but it doesn't look like there will be too much dancing at the coronation.

David Byrne

Tracklisting: Born To Reign - Act Like You Know - I Can't Stop - Jaden's Interlude - 1,000 Kisses - Willow Is A Player - Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head) - How Da Beat Goes - Block Party - Give Me Tonite - I Gotta Go Home - Maybe - Nod Ya Head (The Remix) - Momma Knows

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