August 13, 2001 12:00 PM

Blu Cantrell (Arista)

In the wake of TLC’s “No Scrubs,” Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before” and almost every song by Destiny’s Child, Blu (née Tiffany) Cantrell takes the art of man-bashing by today’s female R&B singers to a new level on her Top 5 debut single, “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!).” The reggae-influenced song—a sort of rebuttal to Shaggy’s smash “It Wasn’t Me”—details the revenge of a woman who hits her cheating lover where it hurts the most: in his pocket. But “Hit ‘Em Up,” while especially popular with female listeners, amounts to a novelty song that doesn’t do justice to Cantrell’s bluesy, gospel-infused voice.

Don’t judge the album by the first single. In fact, most of the best songs on So Blu are torchy, gut-wrenching ballads such as “Till I’m Gone,” “U Must B Crazy” and the disc’s standout, “I’ll Find a Way” (produced and cowritten by Janet Jackson‘s ever reliable team, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis). On these tracks the Providence-born chanteuse, whose mother was a jazz singer, really shines.

A natural belter, Cantrell is less successful when purring seductively on candlelight cuts like “The One” and “10,000 Times.” And the hip-hoppish opener, “Waste My Time” (featuring rapper L.O.), does just that. Lacking the vision of Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige or Erykah Badu, the 25-year-old newcomer is clearly still searching for her musical identity on routine R&B number such as “When I Needed You” and “I Can’t Believe.” But at least the jazzy, introspective title tune seems to be so Cantrell.

Bottom Line: Blu streaky

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