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Mya battles her record label over her new album

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Mya
David LaChapelle

Mya’s sophomore album ”Fear of Flying” (in stores Tuesday) won’t include ”Girls Like That,” a song which the singer says is the much-needed antidote to such broke-men grouses as TLC’s ”No Scrubs” and Destiny’s Child’s ”Bills Bills Bills.” On the tune (produced by the Ruff Ryder’s Swizz Beats), Mya warns men against potential gold-diggers. ”It’s making guys aware of what girls can do instead of just putting down the guys,” the 20-year-old tells EW Online. ”Because there’s a lot of that on the radio, and I get tired of it.”

Mya is upset about the decision by her record label Interscope to replace ”Girls” with a song by producer Rodney Jerkins, the man behind Toni Braxton’s current No. 1 R&B single ”He Wasn’t Man Enough.” (She says she doesn’t know why the label chose to nix ”Girls” rather than another song on the 18-track album.) But this is part of her ongoing struggle with Interscope over artistic control. ”You have to play the game,” she says of these label negotiations. ”And if you stroke people the way they want to be stroked, you can sometimes get what you need to be the performer you want to be.”

Mya certainly needs the label behind her now. Thus far, ”Flying”’s first single, ”Best of Me,” is only No. 65 on the pop charts and No. 19 on the R&B chart, providing a weak setup for such an important sophomore album. And a lot has changed since her 1998 debut as the scrubbed-face R&B teen seemingly embraced by all: hip-hoppers, Lilith Fair-goers, MTV. Talented teens are no longer a novelty, but the norm. And first-album sales by Britney Spears (12 million) and Christina Aguilera (6 million) have far surpassed the 2 million copies sold of Mya’s debut. But she says she isn’t looking to beat the chart success of Spears and Aguilera: ”If that happens, great — but I really want longevity.”

To that end, she has crafted the largely pleasant collection of dreamy love tunes (”For the First Time”), party anthems (”Ride & Shake”), and tender yet strong-willed empowerment odes which are grounded in her own teen travails (”Fear of Flying,” ”The Best of Me”).

”I’m very aware of the struggles young girls go through, because of what I’ve experienced,” says Mya, who once grappled with her body image. ”It had a lot to do with trying to look like [the idealized images of women] I saw in magazines and music videos. And I realize that by being on television now, I’m contributing to this factor.” These concerns, in fact, made her reject certain suggestive poses and outfits when notorious photographer David LaChapelle — known for painting a naked Lil’ Kim with Louis Vuitton symbols — shot the images for her album.

And her concern for the proper depiction of women is causing her to question the message behind her former duet partner Sisqo’s ”The Thong Song,” which has young girls across America in a booty-baring frenzy. ”Does that determine if you’re gonna like someone or not,” she says, ”whether they’re wearing a thong?” Uh… we’ll get back to her on that.

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