Ayla Brown didn't make the finals on the 5th season of FOX's 'American Idol.' But she struck a chord with many Americans due to her talent, both vocally and athletically. Though she deserved to go further, it seems things have worked out nicely. 'Forward' is filled with ballads, pop hits and soulful tracks. Of course the highlight of the album is Ayla's voice, which is enough to make any song amazing. 1) 'Know You Better' (8.5/10) A cover off of UK popstar Ruby Amanfu's 2002 album 'Smoke and Honey,' 'Know You Better' is a great track to start off the album. I think the bridge could've been rewritten, but it works. 2) 'If I Was a River' (9/10) Written by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren, 'If I Was a River' is an underrated song. This ballad shows off Ayla's range. 3) 'Sugah' (7/10) Another cover, 'Sugah' again was originally sung by Ruby Amanfu. It sounds a little dated. Not one of the standouts for me. 4) 'I Quit' (6.5/10) This is one of my least favorite tracks. This is the one song where Ayla's vocals are stretched too thin, especially during the chorus. 5) 'Forward' (10/10) My favorite song on this album. The lyrics are meaningful, and Ayla sings with such passion. The gospel choir in the bridge adds a feeling of emotion. 6) 'Breaking Away' (6/10) Although the song takes a unique approach and tries to be different by including basketball-themed noise, it doesn't do much for me. It's a fun song and shows the connection to Ayla's basketball talents, but it does nothing to showcase Ayla's range and sounds like it came right from a Disney Chanel movie. 7) 'Falling Into You' (9.5/10) 'Falling Into You' completes this album for me. Ayla is amazing on this R&B-tinged cut. Definitely one of the most current songs on 'Forward.' The fact that Ayla co-wrote this is impressive. 8) 'Thanks to You' (8/10) Also co-written by Ayla, 'Thanks to You' is one of the most personal songs on 'Forward.' It's like a 'thank you' note to all those who have supported Ayla. The sentimentality of the song overrides the clichéd lyrics, and the melody is pretty catchy. 9) 'Miles Away' (8.5/10) In an era where overproduction is as common as Dunkin' Donuts messing up your coffee, it's nice to hear a song that lets the artist's vocals do the talking. Ayla proves that she can hold her own with limited assistance and the finished product is a testament to what true talent can accomplish. 10) 'Ten Cent Wings' (8.5/10) The album's final cover, 'Ten Cent Wings' isn't overly-produced. The piano accompaniment adds to the rawness of the song. 11) 'Forward (Unplugged)' (10/10) The most basic song on the album, it's also the most impressive. Untouched by any enhancements, it's nothing short of amazing. As you can see, I'm impressed with Ayla's first studio effort. I think we will all look back on this album one day and marvel at the fact that Ayla was able to pull this off despite having little formal vocal training.
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