As a younger teen, American Idol's latest winner, Jordin Sparks, was a plus-size model. Now 17, she has a debut album arriving with minus-size expectations. Chalk that up both to sixth-season Idol fatigue and to doubts about whether her TV likability would count for much on a CD. First single ''Tattoo'' wasn't encouraging, with producers Stargate copping from their own ''Irreplaceable'' yet making Sparks sound bland enough that Beyoncé wouldn't mind the rip-off. Throw in her maligned Idol coronation anthem, ''This Is My Now,'' and Sparks may as well start singing ''There went my now.''
But hold on: Despite the misfires, Jordin Sparks is as much effervescent fun as any post-Idol bow. She's probably the least showboaty winner, so forget the go-for-broke ballads that legendary record man Clive Davis absent from his usual role as exec producer of Idol champs' discs might have favored. Instead, expect R&B-flavored froth-pop embellished with just enough vocal flourishes. Standouts include producers Bloodshy & Avant's three electro-pop contributions, especially ''Shy Boy.'' (If B&A made Britney's CD listenable, imagine what they can do with a singer.) Throughout, Sparks seems content to serve the song, whether that involves dramatic tension (''Now You Tell Me'') or a soft bed of layered harmonies (''See My Side''). True, Idol has crowned winners with even bigger voices, but it hasn't given us one who's any easier on the ears.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear an audio clip of ''Shy Boy'' at barnesandnoble.com