February 28, 2005 12:00 PM


Surviving a boy-band past and becoming a solo star can be a tricky proposition. For every Justin Timberlake, there’s a Nick Carter. But Omarion shows there’s life after B2K, the R&B vocal group best known for the hit “Bump Bump Bump,” on his promising solo debut. The disc, with its BET-ready mix of smooth ballads, cool mid-tempo numbers and funky club tracks, portrays 20-year-old Omarion as the missing link between Mario and Usher. Omarion effectively flaunts his more grown-up sound on sexy slow jams like “In the Dark” and the title tune, on which, in PG-13 lyrics that won’t turn off his B2K fans, he tells his girl all the things he will do to make her say, “O.” Elsewhere, Omarion gets the party pumping with the smoking “Drop That Heater” and “Take It Off,” a crunk cut in the vein of Usher’s “Yeah!” He goes old-school for “Never Gonna Let You Go (She’s a Keepa),” which evokes the Jackson 5 and features a guest rap from OutKast’s Big Boi. On “Growing Pains,” the CD’s most personal song, he addresses the dissolution of B2K, alluding to some conflict in the group: “So how to explain what went wrong/After we were together for too long/Never be the same again.” But with O, Omarion stands strong on his own.—C.A.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Drop That Heater”

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