album reviews

Nikka Costa
Virgin (2005)

While Joss Stone is busy moaning about her Gap trousers, Nikka Costa jolts that overdone laid-back R&B shtick with a blast of sass on her latest, can'tneverdidnothin'. Like Stone, Costa is no stranger to advertising: She appeared in a Gap ad in 2001, and the title track from her '01 major label debut, Everybody Got Their Something, has pushed everything from cars to movies. But comparing Costa to Stone isn't exactly fair: Costa has more than a decade on Stone, and the experience and maturity to sound authoritative on songs like "Till I Get to You," an alphabetic list of love failures that recalls the Nails' "88 Lines about 44 Women". And Costa's aggressive "Back in Black"-meets-"Hard to Handle" rocker "On and On"—as in, "let's just get it . . . "—hints that she always gets exactly what she wants.

Can'tnever isn't always so carnal, though: Costa mourns the loss of love ("Fooled Ya Baby") and of her father, producer Don Costa ("Fatherless Child"). While some of her ballads do get a little sappy—she sings, "I'm letting my guard down/ 'Cause I feel like I've finally found somebody," in "I Gotta Know"—her blunt self-confidence pulls off everything from a cheesy love song to a saucy cover of Tina Turner's "Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter". Despite a few shaky moments, can'tnever feels like a genuine portrait of Costa, both stylistically and emotionally—and that honest delivery is what so many other mainstream female artists fail to achieve.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 29 June 2005
.: Can'tneverdidnothin' on