(Herald rating: * * * * )

She may be poised to go global as a screen star, with roles in the upcoming Matrix sequels, but back at her day job Aaliyah and her collaborators show that on her third album she's developed into something more substantial than just another manufactured R&B diva with a name seemingly designed to get her at the front of retail racks.

As its 15 tracks thump, click and stutter with inventive, state-of-the-art dancepop, Aaliyah's voice weaves through the sparse but punchy arrangements with a mix of sultriness (the boudoir-instructional Rock The Boat), soul-sass (on ballads like I Care 4 U) and don't mess-with-me attitude (the big noise of What If and the spidery groove of U Got Nerve ).


It takes a few listens for its sonic swerves to kick in — mostly care of Missy Elliott's producer offsider Timbaland.

But it emerges a cohesive, detailed and disarmingly enticing album and one which makes the recent competition — Janet Jackson and Destiny's Child particularly — variously look like they're either trying too hard, or not hard enough.

Label: Virgin