Tamia, "Beautiful Surprise" (Plus 1 Music Group)
Tamia, whose voice is one of music's most powerful -- and underrated -- should be among the ranks of divas like Aretha, Chaka, Mariah and Beyonce. But her 14-year career hasn't translated to chart-topping songs and multiplatinum album sales.
Despite that, the R&B songstress -- best known for the hits "Stranger in My House" and "Into You" with Fabolous -- has released four outstanding albums, including her stellar 1998 self-titled debut, which featured production work by Quincy Jones and Jermaine Dupri. Tamia's fifth release, "Beautiful Surprise," is another consistent effort, filled with soulful ballads and midtempo grooves.
The album's biggest -- and best -- surprise is Tamia's take on country music. She nicely remakes Wynonna Judd's "Is It Over Yet," and "Still" is a beautiful, twang-inspired version of a song from her third album, "More." Her bold leap into a new genre makes up for some of the album's shortcomings, including the lukewarm first single and title track, produced by frequent Amy Winehouse collaborator Salaam Remi.
The 11-track set -- her second independent release -- also includes bouncy tunes like "Lose My Mind" and "Believe in Love," both produced by the Runners (Rick Ross, Rihanna, Usher). Fellow singer Jazmine Sullivan co-writes and sings background on the power ballad "Still Love You," which finds Tamia stretching her voice to new heights.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On the soul-stirring gospel tune "Because of You," Tamia wonderfully returns to her church roots.