Sometimes nice guys (or, in this case, a girl) do finish first. Take Jordin Sparks. American Idol’s sixth-season winner exudes an aw-shucks likeability we just don’t see too often. And she has no qualms about speaking her mind regarding her convictions. In Battlefield’s liner notes, for example, she thanks "my wonderful counselor, Jesus, whose guidance has led me on the right path up to now and will past this point."
Jordin, 19, also recognizes her influence. "I am a role model," she recently told reporters. "I want to make sure I’m not cussing. I don’t cuss anyway. Sex, drugs and rock and roll? I don’t know about those things." That old-fashioned perspective is evident in some spots on her sophomore release. But there are also hints that even as she hopes to influence others positively, the music industry is shaping her, too.
The battlefield in question, is, of course, love. A majority of songs deal with romantic prospects that didn't work out. Among these is "It Takes More," on which a fickle guy breaks up with a girl, then decides he wants her back. She, however, has enough self-respect to decline: "No more waiting for you to change/ ... You're no longer worth waiting for." Another track, "Let It Rain," explores fear and regret. Here, Jordin says that expressing hard feelings paves the way for healing. Tears fall again on "Faith," an upbeat song about keeping your chin up during dark times. Jordin counsels, "You don't have to be so hard on yourself/I know the world can be a brutal place/ ... You gave it your all/It's all you can do." Someone on that track—a friend or perhaps God—promises, "I'll be here for you." Album closer "The Cure" finds a woman promising a wounded man that she can help heal his romantic bruises.
Lyrics that suggest a physical relationship unfortunately creep onto several tracks. The most obvious is Jordin's cover of Fefe Dobson's song, "Don't Let It Go to Your Head." She tells a beau, "I think of you in bed" and teases, "If I want to kiss/From your toes up to your lips/It don't mean you have me yet." Later she promises, "You think you can touch me/Well, I'm gonna let you." "Watch You Go" twice perhaps implies that a broken-up couple shared a bed ("I'm still alone in my bed" and "He has no idea/Why he should spend one more night here"). On "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)," Jordin is frustrated with an aggressive girl going after her guy ("Look in her eyes/She's mentally undressing him"). Compared to her first album, liner note photos show a decidedly more "grown-up" Jordin, revealing more cleavage, more make-up and shorter hemlines.
Listening to Jordin Sparks in interviews, it's clear she wants to offer young fans something different than R&B's sensually charged messages. And in comparison to many of her contemporaries, she arguably succeeds. Still, given Jordin's stated commitment to abstinence, it's disappointing to have to point out any suggestive lyrics. Jordin seems to be aware of this tension. Regarding "Don't Let It Go to Your Head," she's said, "There are some things that could be taken the wrong way. But the way I sing them, it doesn't mean that." To her, maybe. But what about her fans? They'll likely interpret her mildly sensual lyrics more sexually than she intends.