When Mýa graced U.S. shores with 2003's Moodring, she was caught in a rush of competition with the emerging Ashanti, the ascent-ready Beyoncé Knowles, and predecessor Monica. After achieving fair rewards with "Moodring," it was safely assumed that Mýa's next project would be a shoe in for release. Departing Interscope Records and signing with Universal Motown set off a series of career setbacks and when Liberation (2007) finally hit, the U.S. R&B scene had become less kind for her. Seizing the chance to continue where she was wanted, Mýa signed with Manhattan Records, a Japanese label. Her fifth outing to date, and second after Liberation to have a Japanese release only, Sugar & Spice is a fantastic play on Mýa's strengths.
The record began shakily though when Mýa nodded to the mainstream dilution of dance with the clumsy, if intriguing "Must Be the Music." From the lead single "Paradise" onward, Mýa jumped back to her established sounds: glossy grooves, boudoir beckons, and summery jams.
On the chill cuts, "Sold On Your Love" and "One For Me," she straddled smoothed out hip-hop-lite foundations, sprinkled with late '80's R&B melodies, and sweetened all of this with her trademark purr. Her bedroom valentine techniques saw her take a cue from Janet Jackson's manual of seduction with "Almost Naked," a confident song that left enough to imagination and little inhibition.
"Back to Disco," a shot of inventive fun, energetically referenced the period Mýa was affectionate toward. There was also growth in other subject matter and how Mýa vocally handled it. Check out her glistening anthem "All In Your Mind," or her tender performance on the teary-eyed "Cry No More." A reproach to "Fallen," from Moodring, "Fallen Part 2" showed that not all fairy tales end happily. On the aggressive "Fallen Part 2" former Pharcyde member Tre assisted, which was appropriate considering she tapped their song "Runnin," that initially sampled Luiz Bonfá's "Saudade Vem Correndo" for the original "Fallen."
Sugar & Spice's fortification of Mýa's music is absolute when viewing that she wrote majority of the songs with production from Jimmy "Klev" Juarez, Arkatech Beatz, Chris "Riddim Fingaz" Garvey, Ne-Yo, Stevie Hoang, Yonny, D.Botts, and Michael Duque.
U.S. support is still elusive at this point, but Mýa doesn't seem to be too bothered. In Japan's Oricon charts (the Japanese equivalent of our own Billboard charts), Sugar & Spice has sold well since its December 3rd, 2008 drop date. It's unlikely this will see a domestic release, but if you're willing to pay the price, you can own of one of the better R&B records out there. Four out of five stars.-QH
[Editor's Note: This is a Japanese import which can be expensive, I ordered my copy through CDJapan and they have an affordable exchange rate. Visit CDJapan for decent priced copy of Sugar & Spice. For more information on Mýa, visit www.myamya.com -QH]