' sultry sophomore album, Ready Now
, which clocks around 40 minutes, is more concise than her hour-long debut. None of the songs seem like unnecessary filler, and even the seven-minute "U" doesn't overstay its welcome. She still relies on backup singers to complement the vocals, but her voice has gotten stronger; she displays greater emotional nuance (e.g., "Ready Now") and vocal nimbleness (e.g., "Can't Be Mad"), and the production of her voice has gotten less overblown. The lyrics contain a few memorable turns of phrase, but most of the time they aren't particularly original or striking; even the double entendres aren't especially clever. The production sounds at times like it could been influenced by Timbaland
(e.g., the horn punches and Middle Eastern feel on "Ride"), although there are also traces of past associate Dr. Dre
's influence (e.g., the beat on "Knock Knock"). The guest rap by Loon
on "Whatchu Sayin'" isn't particularly memorable, and the album could use more humor like the phone conversation that carries over from " Lifetime (Interlude)" into "Lifetime"; it could also benefit from more of the vulnerability that Truth Hurts
displays in "Ready Now" to balance out soft porn fantasies such as "Phone Sex." But it's still a satisfying set of sexy, silky smooth music.