Watch out, Janet Jackson. Here comes an 18-year-old who has the same sweet transmission you do, one that allows her to shift from dance dervish to ravishing balladeer in the tick of a drum machine. Like you, she boasts impressive bloodlines. Nona is the daughter of soul’s suave prince of passion, Marvin Gaye, who died in 1984, at age 44, when his father, Rev. Marvin Gay Sr., shot him during an argument.
With the help of a series of talented producer-composers, Gaye covers a lot of tempo terrain on her debut. She proves adept at ballads as delicate as glass figurines (“The Things That We All Do for Love” and “Breaking Away”), sexy slam-dunk jammies like “Natural Motion” and “Fever,” an incendiary duet with the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson, and bright skip-along pop bouquets like “I’m Overjoyed” and the slaphappy timbal-driven “Only Two Can Tell.”
Gaye doesn’t possess an immediately distinctive voice, but it is smooth and strong over its entire range. She also seems intriguingly self-assured, particularly in her unusual and sometimes surprising note selection. And the bad news for you. Janet, is that the whole package is a little too accomplished to dismiss as beginner’s luck. (Third Stone/Atlantic)