Review

Corbin Bleu has grown up a lot since his first album in 2007. All fresh-faced and innocent on the cover of Another Side, Bleu looks like a man on the cover of 2009's Speed of Light, dressed all in black, sporting sculpted arms and wispy facial hair. He has a sound to match his makeover, ditching the sugary Disney Radio pop in favor of a slick, stylish, modern R&B, driven by rhythmic hooks instead of melody. Bleu winds up with an album that plays FutureSex/LoveSounds with the sex removed; he has the shimmering synths, the chilly sound, but he's still singing about puppy love, he's still a teen idol. The same can also be said of Speed of Light as a whole: so much of the album is draped in threads borrowed from Timberlake/Timbaland that it's easy to overlook the lingering elements of Radio Disney, even when the strongest reminder, "Moments That Matter," arrives at the beginning of the record. "Moments That Matter" isn't only the lead single from the album, it was featured in Bleu's feature film Free Style, a reminder of how Bleu's not just a singer, he's a four-quadrant entertainer ready to tackle any medium he can. Speed of Light doesn't quite play up this ready-to-please element of the High School Musical alum. Perhaps wisely, it's intended to make Bleu into a presence on the pop charts outside of any movie or Disney affiliation and even if the attempt doesn't quite work, it's easy to chalk it up to growing pains, not a deficiency in Bleu himself. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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