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    Talented Chrisette Michelle struggles to find direction on ‘Milestone’

    Chrisette Michele is unquestionably one of contemporary R&B’s brightest talents, a dynamic vocalist who’s struggled to define her musical identity. This overlong 68-minute effort on her own independent label muddies things further. Quite simply, Michele deserves better than this oddly ordinary material and unimaginative production. While 2013’s “Better” dealt with acceptance of self, this is about embracing new love and the confidence it inspires. Unfortunately, there are too many static mid-tempo ballads (“Private Destination,” “Soulmate”) that must be rescued from banality by her remarkably expressive vocals. Having completely abandoned the fluid, organic sound of her early years, the singer now relies too heavily on shopworn trap beats. “Steady” is an empty mainstream-trap compromise, and her vivid, jazz-influenced performance on “Diamond Letter” is nearly suffocated by rhythm tracks. “Equal,” with Rick Ross, might have been diverting in 2010, but its Maybach Music blueprint is beyond stale today. Despite some pop gems (“Edge of the Bar”), Michele clearly is still searching for the proper musical direction that would bring her sound into focus.

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    KEN CAPOBIANCO

    ESSENTIAL “Diamond Letter”

    Ken Capobianco can be reached at franznine@live.com.