Jordin Sparks, "Battlefield"

3.5

On her 2007 self-titled debut, former "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks compared love to permanent body art and her entire supply of oxygen. Lyrical themes get a bit murkier on her appropriately titled sophomore effort, "Battlefield." "You better go and get your armor," Sparks sings on the title track of the new 12-song set, where similarly dark sentiments prevail throughout. "No Parade" is a radio-friendly ballad written and produced by Scott Cutler, Anne Preven and Dapo Torimiro. On the track, Sparks doesn't lament an actual breakup, just that it's so uninteresting. She triumphantly purges those feelings on the rock-influenced "Let It Rain," which carries a religious subtext, as does "Faith," one of four tracks that Sparks co-wrote. "Battlefield" takes an uptempo turn on "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)," with its dance-worthy chorus provided by '80s freestyle queen Shannon. Meanwhile, Dr. Luke and T-Pain lend their touch to "Watch You Go," on which Sparks proves she can straddle pop and R&B, while also evoking the synergy between joy and pain. --Monica Herrera