Karina - First Love

Posted August 21, 2008
Tags: Karina Pasian,

Who was your first love? For me it was Salma Hayek in the movie Desperado. Sweet Jesus, that...

First Love Album Review

Who was your first love? For me it was Salma Hayek in the movie Desperado. Sweet Jesus, that woman made me want to...wait, my editors are telling me this is supposed to be a family friendly review. Sorry. Ok, how about this? My first love was hip-hop. See, when I was a kid we had these weird things called “tapes” and my older cousin had managed to cop a bootlegged tape of De La Soul’s 3 Feet and Rising. I was instantly hooked, and ever since then I’ve spent my life chasing rhymes and beats trying to get a hit as good as that first one. Everyone has their first love. That was mine. What was yours?

For Karina Pasian there was only one first love. She loved music, and luckily music loved her back. A full-fledged musical prodigy since she was a child tearing up the Star Search stage, the little girl with the voice of an old-time jazz singer was so talented she caught the ear of legendary producer Quincy Jones, who eventually became her godfather. The now 17-year-old Karina has grown into an almost shockingly experienced musician (she can sing fluently in several languages), so it’s no surprise that her debut album, the aptly named First Love, is an intensely mature work. The real test will be in three years when the “damn, she’s only a teenager” effect wears off and it will be just her and her music, but for the time being Karina is simply an extraordinary talent who deserves all the recognition she’ll get.

If your first introduction to Karina was hearing her sing Can’t Find the Words you’d never guess she was so young. Can’t Find takes a layered drum beat, puts a simply piano melody on loop and lets Karina go to work with some perfectly melodic and surprisingly soulful lyrics. She delivers a dynamic vocal performance without becoming over-dramatic, leaving Can’t Find sounding like something a young Alicia Keys would make. It’s the kind of song you hear in your head when you first spot the love of your life from across the room at a party. Even better is the title track First Love, a slowly winding record that lets Karina exhibit a powerfully expressive voice that’s vaguely reminiscent of Whitney Houston, pre-Bobby era of course. Some singers can embed their voice with true emotion and some can’t. It’s not something that can be learned, you have to be born with it, and Karina clearly was.

Ironically it’s also her musical maturity that stops First Love from becoming a great album. It’s as if she spent so much time proving to the world that she’s not just a teenage girl at times forgets how to be a teenage girl. Just take 90’s Baby, a tightly bouncing song that’s guaranteed to do two things: make 80’s babies like myself feel old and get the dance floor of high school dances moving. 90’s Baby is First Love’s most overtly party song, and while Karina hits every note perfectly she hasn’t yet mastered the art of the party jam. And yes, party jams are an art, just listen to Mary J. Blige. Just one track later comes Baby, Baby, a Dream and Tricky Stewart produced track featuring a decent guest verse from Lil’ Mama, who has her own age-related issues. It’s a song with a great message that Karina delivers with no shortage of style, but listen to Tiffany Evans' similarly constructed Promise Ring to hear how fun and a good message can be combined. It’s no surprise then the best song on the album comes when Karina embraces her age, but does so with in a deeply moving way. 16 At War is one of the best songs about growing up in hard times I’ve ever heard, and only someone that age, and that talented, could pull it off. I’m not going to use the dreaded work “potential” but if Karina can continue to deliver songs like 16 At War she’ll be a household name in no time.

First Love isn’t a perfect album, but who was perfect as a teenager? Karina’s as close to musical perfection as you’re going to get at that age, and that’s why someone, somewhere is falling in love for the first time through her music. What goes around comes around; let’s just hope Karina can continue to make enough good music to go around for years to come.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted August 21, 2008
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