As far as American Idol winners go, Jordin Sparks is pretty much a blank slate. Other than her dedication to abstinence, she isn’t known for anything in particular, and her musical identity is similarly indistinct. Sparks doesn’t make much of an effort to carve out a niche for herself on her second album, Battlefield, despite co-writing four songs, but she delivers a sufficiently enjoyable pop album with a handful of stand-out songs.
The title track and lead single, courtesy of OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, is an atmospheric anthem with a stuttering beat, and probably the best thing the typically cloying Tedder has ever produced. Sparks slows down and softens up her version of Canadian pop-rocker Fefe Dobson’s “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” but it’s still catchy and sassy. “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)” and “Emergency (911)” are both lively, club-ready dance tunes, and Sparks exhibits the most personality as a potential dance-floor diva.
Unfortunately, she seems more interested in becoming a breast-beating balladeer, and Battlefield sags under the weight of several undercooked potential prom-closers. Sparks has a strong voice befitting her Idol status, but it’s entirely conventional, and wailing in front of overprocessed string sections doesn’t showcase her at her best. Still, she’s only 19, and Battlefield proves that if she figures out what kind of singer she wants to be, she could have a bright future as a pop star.