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** 1/2 Tamia, "Tamia," Qwest/Warner Bros.

April 25, 1998|CONNIE JOHNSON

Like Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton before her, Tamia has true around-the-way glamour--and that's a vital ingredient in the image-is-everything '90s. Like Carey and Braxton, the Quincy Jones protegee possesses something even more important: stellar vocal talent to back up her cover girl looks.

Unfortunately, Tamia suffers from a problem that hampers many recording artists these days. There are more great singers in the world than there are great songwriters to supply them with material. So on her debut album--which was three years in the making--this Canadian native applies herself gamely to songs that do little for her.

Jermaine Dupri's "Imagination" is catchy and teasingly seductive, while "Loving You Still" has power-ballad aspirations.

But the only track that truly does this 22-year-old justice is "You Put a Move on My Heart," the 1995 hit that launched her career--the torcher is a masterful custom-fit. Every note she hits and holds, every inflection, is letter-perfect. And it only makes you wish this album offered more knock-your-socks-off moments like it.

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