This may be news to you, but Mario is the best male R&B singer out there right now. He hasn't really been recognized since (or even before) his monster hit "Let Me Love You," which is especially tragic for anyone who has ever heard his extremely underrated last album Go, but that all just might change with his fourth album D.N.A. His first single "Break Up" with Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett is his biggest hit in years & rightfully so, even if it's taken much too long for him to make a mark on the charts again. "Break Up" is a hard-hitting urban jam with a fresh vibe that gives the listener a pretty good idea of what to expect from Mario's new album as a whole.
"Break Up" kicks off D.N.A., which then heads straight into second single "Thinkin' About You." The midtempo is right on par with its predecessor & might just have an edge on it due to the fact that the latter features solely Mario's smooth vocals. Next up is the Ludacris-assisted banger "Get Out," which is pretty good. Mario finally slows it down with the excellent "Soundtrack To My Broken Heart." If nothing else convinces you that he has the best voice with the best material for a guy singing R&B these days, this will.
I would describe "Starlight," a product of today's hitmakers The-Dream & Tricky Stewart, as an uptempo--a solid one at that--even though it seems to have a slightly different sound than I'm used to that I can't quite put my finger on. Unfortunately, unlike some of the successful duo's other recent work, the track just doesn't quite connect with me. "Stranded," another slow jam, is an improvement, though it's also not my favorite song on the album, but considering it's the "newest" one of the bunch, it may be a grower. Mario hits it out of the park for me however on "Ooh Baby." This midtempo just has everything you could want in an R&B song. Another winner can be found in the Big Sean-featuring "Before She Said Hi." It has Mario very much in his element, so I won't count it against him that the featured rapper sounds like a (bad) rip-off of Jay-Z.
Mario rides the beat exceedingly well on "I Choose You," one of the best tracks from Stargate in quite a while--as ancient as it may be. Now, I hope I don't sound too redundant, but Mr. Barrett once again proves how great his magical formula of amazing vocals & quality music is with "Don't Walk Away." Before D.N.A.'s title was even finalized, one of my favorite leaks was "I Miss My Friend," so I'm pleased a place was found on the album for it. Besides being yet another smash from the singer, the song excells lyrically, as it hits very close to home for me personally. As for the closer "The Hardest Moment," Mario properly offers up one of his best vocal displays & unique-sounding tracks ever.
There's not a bad song on D.N.A. & most of them are rather great, but this album is especially unique because it is the first one I've ever not even had to wait for to leak, as the entire thing was on the internet already & has been for varying amounts of time that go back quite a long way. In a case such as this, although I'm willing to mostly forgive an artist as talented as Mario, it just comes off as lazy & as if the artist doesn't care enough about their work to keep ANY of it from leaking. I wasn't going to ignore that fact, but with all that said, & especially if you haven't heard the leaks, make sure you check out D.N.A. If you like what you hear, then pick up Mario's previous album Go as well because, although they're close, it's even better.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
UPDATE: It seems the final version of "Before She Said Hi" is actually different than the leaked version, so it appears that I owe Big Sean an apology for calling him a Jay-Z wannabe when he's clearly trying to jack the style of Drake. While my opinion hasn't changed of the song, the final version, which may be rerecorded, almost seems less clean & mastered-sounding, though Mario does make up for it with some nice new adlibs.