...Mario is leading the way for a new generation of soulful crooners.
Denise Boyd 2005
Mario first graced us with his sweet vocals three years ago, releasing his eponymous debut album at the tender age of 15. Now he's all grown up, and being "Just a Friend" is definitely not on his mind.
In the opening track "18" Mario introduces us to his world. He's a man of some confidence and style - but with two albums under his belt at such a young age he has every right to blow his own trumpet.
The stand out track "Let Me Love You" has already tugged at the heart strings of the R&B audience, becoming a club, party and car stereo anthem on both sides of the Atlantic. Its smooth and soulful narrative sets the tone for much of this album. Slow jams are Mario's forte and tracks like "How Could You", "Directions" and "Like Me Real Hard" are fine examples, giving you butterflies in your stomach and sending shivers down your spine -not for the faint hearted!
Although his lyrics of love and heartache belie his teenage years, Mario is still striving for his own unique sound. His smooth slickness is heavily influenced by Usher, and if you close your eyes you could be listening to Tyrese.
Having said that, the amusingly titled "Nike Fresh Out The Box" heralds a style which is strictly Mario as he sings about the girl of his dreams, "I see her; I want her, got to have her like Nike fresh out the box". In R&B women have unceremoniously been compared to jeans, jeeps and now a pair of Nike sneakers! But ladies don't get it twisted, from an 18 year old from Baltimore this is huge praise.
Mario can definitely rock an uptempo urban beat, as is evident on the track "Boom" -featuring Juvenile and produced by flavour du jour Lil' John. But to be honest it's not where his strength really lies. Mario is a classy act, more at home sipping champagne with the ladies than chugging crunk juice with the boys.
The aptly titled Turning Point celebrates the coming of age of a major talent. In this era of romantic R&B Mario is leading the way for a new generation of soulful crooners, and - just like a fine wine - he's only going to improve with age.