First Listen – “They Don’t Give” Shows the soulful side of Jordin Sparks


For as long as there have been LPs, so-called album fillers have often been the quiet nuggets that stick in your ear and makes you an artist’s fan even more than the radio singles. On an album heavy with pop sheen productions and circus colors, her more grown-up Right Here, Right Now, Jordin Sparks snuck in a couple of the more urban adult contemporary tracks of her young career. Along with the atmospheric and contemporary “Left…Right,” on “They Don’t Give,” the season six American Idol-winner opts for a more ‘90s smooth soul cut whose laid back feel and an “us against the world” lover’s message reminiscent of Jon B’s “They Don’t Know.”

The singer turned actress had already proven on a couple of the 2012 Sparkle soundtrack cuts that she can belt high notes and gospel runs with the best of the young divas. So, it was a pleasant surprise to hear her hold back here and caress a song in the style of vocalists like Tamia or Toni Braxton, showing a softer, less earnest side to Sparks’ vocals. Produced and co-written with Sparks by legends Babyface and Salaam Remi, the silky set-up is a reminder of the kinds of relaxed album filler that DJs would eventually end up making Quiet Storm classics.

I wish more young artists slipped this kind of soulful material into their projects, even as they feed the single Gods the slicker, more profane urban pop material radio now demands. Doing so might give more new artists the kind of longevity the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated Sparks seems to be carving out for herself, one memorable song at a time.

By L. Michael Gipson

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