With the recent revival in teen R&B, it might be easy for an act to get lost in the shuffle.
With the recent revival in teen R&B, it might be easy for an act to get lost in the shuffle. J newcomer Mario has nothing to worry about, thanks to an impressive eponymous debut. For starters, the 15-year-old Baltimore native had the guts to cover Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" which, as the set's lead single, is a certified radio smash. The age-appropriate "Braid My Hair" proves that the singer can also slow things down; at the same time, the love song is a fine showcase for his youthful tenor. Mario dabbles in neo-soul on the Alicia Keys-produced, piano-fueled "2 Train." Here, Mario may remind some listeners of a young Donnell Jones. Surely the album's highlight, "2 Train" is what separates Mario from the rest of the pack—proving that he is about more than syrupy sweet hooks and schoolyard crushes.—RH