By Neil Drumming
Updated August 01, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who knew her name was pronounced Ta-LEE-ah? More important, who in the States knew that the cherubic wife of music mogul Tommy Mottola was — more than simply another Mariah-mimicking, fledgling American idol flashing her midriff — an international superstar? Those of us who don’t regularly peruse the Latin pop charts were also surprised to learn that Thalia, her U.S. debut, is actually her 10th album.

Keeping international sensibilities in mind, Thalia gets nowhere near as explicit as her peers. (That is, unless you count track five, ”Another Girl,” on which she coos, ”Can’t give you up, I’m so in love, I will share you with another girl” over a drippy four-note melody that recalls Nelly and Kelly’s ”Dilemma.”) Never quite edgy, Thalia does take a stab at ”urban.” The album’s opener and first single, ”I Want You,” features big-boned Bronx rapper Fat Joe refurbishing the music from his dead homey Big Pun’s first hit, ”Don’t Wanna Be a Player.” Other than perhaps proving that, at this point, Joe (f.k.a. Don Cartegena, f.k.a. Fat Joe the Gangsta) is, like Ja Rule, harmless thug putty in a pop star’s palm, the cut does nothing more than set the bland, spotless tone for the rest of the CD. It also becomes obvious from here on that Thalia’s voice, a thin, distant purr only two notches more palatable than J. Lo’s, will neither add to nor subtract from any tune’s total effect; it all comes down to what the producers have in mind.

Club-ready songs like ”Misbehavin”’ and ”What’s It Gonna Be Boy?” comprise more harmless hip-hop lite and breezy melodies. Then there’s the crossover dance stuff: ”Tu Y Yo” sounds like Shakira, and ”Don’t Look Back,” the record’s most engaging moment, demonstrates that Kylie Minogue’s production team can pretty much remake ”Love at First Sight” for anyone. And, finally, Bono & Co. might want to consult their lawyers about similarities between ”Closer to You” and their own ”With or Without You.” Add to all this familiarity the fact that four of ”Thalia”’s 14 tracks are reprised in Spanish at the end of the album, and you have what seems to be a wholly unoriginal listening experience.