Like colts springing from the starting gate with no endurance for the finish, Tevin Campbell and Shanice Wilson fall behind the field, weighed down by overly slick production. Despite lead-off hit singles, neither of these teen-age upstarts can break through the noise enough to be heard.
At 15, Tevin wants to play with the big boys. On Lil' Brother he tries to rap his way into the bed of an older women. When she pats him on the head and sends him on his way, he counters with "The dudes you like can't even make you scream." The tone isn't satirical enough and seems inappropriate. Continue the downhill slide on the remake of the Brothers Johnson's Strawberry Letter 23, an obvious single, but one oldie that didn't need a new funk swing remix. Even more criminal that Quincy Jones, the original producer of 23, twaddles his old hit into this soupy mess.
Campbell can however, handle a strong ballad with style. Both the current single, Tell Me What You Want Me To Do and the Bergmans/Hamlisch One Song raise the hair on the back of your neck, but save for these and the burned-out Round and Round, T.E.V.I.N. hits the floor with a thud.
Shanice wins this race by only a nose. Amazing how one song can almost justify purchase of this album. With a cheesy rap, a cheesy sax solo from Branford Marsalis, and a classic Motown melody, I Love Your Smile deserves its Top 5 chart status. But in trying to cover every musical and commercial base, she ends up paving roads for the Good Intentions Asphalt Co. Inoffensive, unchallenging and utterly forgettable, the other tracks on Inner Child all follow the path Shanice builds for them, right into radio fodder oblivion.
Both high profile projects for their labels, the hired gun factor here is precariously high. Narada Michael Walden, of the Whitney and Mariah Walden's, pops up on both records, his trademark string section behind him. But Walden and Jones overshadow these young talents. Despite strong vocal abilities, neither Shanice or Tevin break through this heavy-handed approach and establish an identity. Shrouded in this murky background, both Inner Child and T.E.V.I.N. have more to do with their production Svengalis than with their artists.