A pair of uptempo, minor-key tunes kick off this Brit diva's debut CD. The catchy opener, "It Feels So Good," recalls both '80s freestyle and Cher's wildly successful hit single "Believe." The next track, "I Put a Spell on You," is "inspired by" (as the CD's sleeve puts it) Screamin' Jay Hawkins's classic R&B gem of the same name. The new version has none of the 1956 original's over-the-top sense of absurdity and abandon; Sonique's "Spell" is a lean machine fueled by a disco bass throb, festooned by strings, and graced by Sonique's stylish vocals. Hear My Cry covers a lot of dance territory, from the dressed-up funk of "Are You Ready?" to the techno-tinged house of "Love Is on Our Side." The album also includes an R&B slow jam ("Drama"), gloomy trip-hop ("Empty [Hideaway]"), and a piano ballad ("Learn to Forget"). A fair amount of the disc's tracks are pedestrian, but what makes just about any of them worth checking out is Sonique's distinctive voice, an instrument with an unusual grain to it. --Fred Cisterna
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