April 11, 2005 12:00 PM

The First Lady

Despite her fourth CD’s title, Evans has always played second-string diva to the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, and there won’t be any changing of the ghetto-fabulous guard with this serviceable but unspectacular effort. Evans tones down the hip-hop (rappers only appear on two songs) to emphasize the soul on cuts like the midtempo testimonial “Again” as well as the usual slow jams. A couple of jazzy house numbers pump things up, but too few tracks—the gospel-powered “Mesmerized” being one—are truly first-rate.

•DOWNLOAD THIS: “Mesmerized”

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