Frankie J

Singer/songwriter Frankie J was one of the more rico members of the very suave A.B. Quintanilla y Los Kumbia Kings, a group put together by Quintanilla in 1999 as a sort of Latin Backstreet Boys (all eight members were between ages sixteen and twenty-four). If you don't recognize the name Quintanilla, it was also the last name of the late Tejano superstar Selena. Brother Quintanilla wrote and produced many of her biggest hits; then went on to use his name and talents to produce the Kumbia Kings' well-received albums Amor, Familia y Respecto, and 4.

Frankie J's ambitions were obvious as a part of that group. Before leaving the group at the beginning of the year for a solo career, he penned a third of the songs on 4. While the rest of the album's cuts bounced between 'N Sync-like Latin numbers and party pop cumbia-style, Frankie J's compositions were a clear departure in their smooth R&B sound, English lyrics, and his lead vocals (versus the group vocals on the other songs). He even lifted his "Don't Wanna Try" from 4 and released it as a single, promoting it as the prom song of 2003. If you like the high gloss of "Don't Wanna Try," with its soulful inflections and easy tempo, then you might be happy with his debut album, What's A Man to Do?, which is mostly a carbon copy of that model.

There's no doubting Frankie J's vocal prowess, a high silky tenor that flits easily through the turns and twists of a melody and his many falsetto trills. But he also plays it safe with no surprises, pleasant or otherwise, and little variation from one track to the next, offering little besides the same teen love balladry. Even the occasional rap by guests Gemini and Baby Bash sounds uninspired.

You'll also find nothing profound in the lyrics beyond phrases like "Tell me girl, what's really going on." Meanwhile, the music is weighed down by a drum machine program that seems to start at song one and doesn't stop till the end of the album. Frankie J is all about style with little substance, but if you're seventeen and need some mood music for you and your date, look no further.

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John Anderson