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Sounds like … a more understated Yolanda Adams, plus vestiges of Mary J. Blige, Monica, Kelly Rowland, and Darlene McCoyAt a glance … it doesn't take a lot of risks, but Blue Sky is nevertheless a well-crafted, well-sung collection of urban pop from this talent-search winnerTrack Listing Blue Sky So Happy Never Too Far (feat. Darwin Hobbs) I've Got You Incredible It's LovePsalm 23 All I Need (feat. DJ Maj) Gonna Make It Shining Star
Those who keep up with American Idol know the show gives a shot to countless frustrated, would-be singing sensations, many of whom try out multiple times in hopes of one day hitting it big. Newcomer Da'Quela Payne was one of them. After strutting her stuff at the popular reality competition, she almost threw in the towel when she got rejected for not having what it takes.
Enter the TBN-broadcast Gifted. The faith-based show was no American Idol, but there was still a deal with EMI at stake, so Da'Quela decided to give the talent search one last shot, determined to quit and become a church singer if she didn't win. The third time's a charm, however, as Da'Quela beat the odds and the show's other 16,000 contestants, finally recording her debut album Blue Sky, as produced by Antonio Neal and DoubleDutch.
Like a lot of first-time efforts from freshmen Idol alumni, Blue Sky is far from an artistic statement, but it does offer exactly what the show's constituents crave: songs with enough likeability and pop quotient to outlive the competition's flash-in-the-pan reputation. Fortunately, Da'Quela sidesteps derivative Christian pop or formulaic gospel-pop in favor of a classier, breezier flavor of urban pop, reminiscent of label mate Darlene McCoy and a more demure Yolanda Adams.
The producers handle the music coolly, giving Da'Quela soft, soulful sound beds to ride on—nothing too menacing or hard-hitting, but with enough of a groove for her to showcase her elegant alto. Rarely does the vocalist truly belt it, but then again, the music never really calls for melisma or acrobatics. In that regard, she mostly keeps to the program, which is the least one can expect from a singer chosen by popular vote. Hopefully Blue Sky is only the start, paving the way for Da'Quela to take more creative risks in the future.