Album Reviews: It's Already Written by HoustonIn the world of hip-hop, rap has reigned for over a decade, but singing is finally making a long overdue comeback. Hoping to ride this trend is a talented young singer named Houston, who despite his moniker is actually from Los Angeles. On his Capitol Records debut, this promising 20-year-old shows impressive versatility, if not originality, on a slick set of tunes that put some smooth-voiced soul back into hip-hop and a little streetwise attitude into the more straight-up R&B joints.
The album's lead single "I Like That" is a bouncy bit of fluff on which Houston's silky tenor is virtually lost in the inane singalong chorus and guest raps by Chingy, Nate Dogg and I-20. It's already been licensed by McDonald's, which is good news for Houston's bank account but not his career longevity. Let's hope everyone's still paying attention when the disc's likely followup singles hit, because they're much better showcases for the star of this set. "Twizala" is an Usher-like midtempo jam with an infectious chorus highlighted by Houston's multitrack croons, while "Allright" gets seriously funky thanks to the ace work of veteran producer Jazze Pha (Twista, Ludacris).
The rest of It's Already Written is long on throwaway makeout ballads (including a too-faithful rendition of Ready for the World's 1986 hit "Love You Down"), but the best tracks, especially the hypnotic "She Is," hint at Houston's immense potential. Time will tell whether this kid's got the depth to give the R&B big dogs a run for their money. - Andy Hermann
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