She was doing it before Britney Spears
, and she was doing it better. Teen princess Jennifer Love Hewitt
attained a level of popularity based predominantly on her immensely likeable girl-next-door appeal. But before she became a household name with TV's Party of Five and as the heroine of the I Know What You did Last Summer movies, she was recording albums. This eponymous CD was her second American release, and though she poses no threat to the Celine Dion
s and the Lorrie Morgan
s of the world, her feathery light voice is more soulful than you'd imagine. The tracks on this album are all R&B-flavored pop and adult contemporary, and, though they're slickly produced, they complement Hewitt
instead of overpowering her. Yes, most of the lyrics are the usual teen odes to love, loss, and longing, but there's a maturity to them as well that transcends most cookie-cutter pop. On "I Always Was Your Girl," she sings "You put your friends through hell/that's why we get along so well," obviously not capitalizing on the "nice" girl image she was on the cusp of practically owning; on "Cool With You," she pines to right a relationship so that all can be cool again; and on "It's Good to Know I'm Alive" from the House Arrest soundtrack (in which she starred) she sings with such joy and abandon, you'll want to sing along, too. Depending on your threshold for harmless, white-bread teen pop, this album could be a welcome addition to your collection because, frankly, it makes you like her even more than her image did in the first place.