Keri Hilson, 'In a Perfect World...' (Zone 4/MMG/Interscope)

Critical Mass
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by Barry Walters

Big-budget R&B albums used to be the industry's bread and butter; these days, they often get stale before they even see a release date. For as long as it sustains a frisky tempo, this long-delayed debut from Timbaland's latest flavor proves an exception: The Euro-styled synth arpeggios of last year's "Return the Favor" still sound like the future, as does the sassiness Hilson wears so well on her Lil Wayne–boosted hit, "Turnin' Me On." But her fresh attitude eventually gets lost in a slew of downtrodden ballads that sink the album's second half. In other words, business as usual.

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