The Boy Next Door
As smartly packaged singers go, there's no denying British-based American expat Stacey Kent's enduring pull. Her pop-princess effervescence is infectious, and she knows how to shape an interesting playlist, as evidenced by her new The Boy Next Door (Candid). Paying tribute to male singers and songwriters whom she admires (hardly an original idea, but one that female vocalists seem never to tire of), she handles everything from Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" to Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" with impeccable precision. Technically, she's sound as polished as a purring Rolls Royce. Emotionally, though, there's a bothersome disconnect. Kent sings from her head, not her heart. Which is surely why she's a lot better at selling upbeat trifles like "Makin' Whoopee" and "You're the Top" (to that end, her bouncy "'Tis Autumn" is an absolute delight) than anything that smacks of genuine heartbreak ("I Get Along Without You Very Well") or fiery passion ("Too Darn Hot"). I understand why millions of fans have cottoned to Kent-she's utterly accessible in a nonthreatening way. Such talent, though, deserves more than just a good marketing plan.