Jordin Sparks: Right Here Right Now

Squeaky-clean pop star shows she's all grown up on her fun, clubby third album

Credit: Tibrina Hobson/Getty

Jordin Sparks has made a career out of age-appropriate pop — catchy enough for the charts, tame enough for your parents. The 25-year-old star's first new LP in six years sees her becoming sexier, sassier and shadier with time. Taking cues from R&B upstarts like Tinashe and Jhené Aiko, Sparks focuses on singing in ways that play off the beats (many supplied by Amy Winehouse producer Salaam Remi), although she still makes time for some of her signature pop belting. On the 2 Chainz-featuring "Double Tap," she laments a thirsty Instagram lurker; the infectious "Boyz in the Hood" aims for hip-hop kitsch. A few ballads drag down the album's momentum and get lost among the bouncy club songs, which either recall DJ Mustard's sound or are actually produced by him ("It Ain't You"). Still, rays of sunshine like the reggae jam "Casual Love," featuring Shaggy, remind us that Sparks is still a girl on fire.