Fame is a strange thing. There are people who deserve to be far more acclaimed then they are (Jill Scott for example), and there are people who are way more famous than they should be (I’m looking at you Ray-J). But then there’s another, rarer class of celebrity, the Almost Famous. These are artists who are successful by every important measure, except one; they just aren’t that famous. They could walk down the street and go largely unnoticed, even though their song’s playing on every radio in the city. Why aren’t the almost famous the …
DJBooth Album Review
The reason I've been thinking about the Almost Famous lately is Avant. Even though Avant’s had his last three albums go Top Ten, he hasn’t become the household name you’d think he’d be. Case in point: my girl just walked in the room and asked who I was writing about. When I told her I was writing about Avant’s new self-titled album, she said, “Who’s Avant? Oh wait, I know him, he’s the 4 Minutes guy! I love that song!” Exactly. Despite an impressive musical resume, Avant’s flirted with full-blown fame but never touched it, remaining “the 4 Minutes guy” for most of America. Avant apparently felt the same way, leaving Geffen Records because the label wasn’t properly promoting him and signing with Capitol to release his fifth-studio album. Will Avant the album be enough to move Avant the singer out of the Almost Famous zone?
The album takes a two part approach, letting the ladies know that while Avant’s a gentlemen, he’s not too much of a gentlemen to set the bed on fire. Let’s start things off with the album's second single, Break Ya Back (In A Good Way). First of all, that’s already my nomination for best song title of 2009. (It was a major improvement over the song’s original title, F**k You And Never Call You Again, In A Good Way). Musically, Break Ya Back finds Avant crossing over to Usher territory, steaming up his always smooth voice with lyrics like, “It sounds like you’re ready for daddy girl.” Despite some unnecessary auto-tune vocal effects, Break Ya Back is the kind of track that will undoubtedly inspire some furniture breaking (in a good way). Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Out Of Character, a track that has Avant trying to get his lady friend to expand her sexual horizons, via a three-way. In contrast to the surprisingly earnest Break Ya, Out Of Character sounds forced, as if he walked into the studio and said “now I’m going to write a sexually shocking song.” We can assume his girl didn’t react positively to the threesome request because Avant also included When It Hurts on the album, an old-school apology song that showcases his always smooth singing style to perfection. Avant won’t blow you away with vocal fireworks, but he will seduce you, and for an R&B singer that’s all you can ask for.
When Avant isn’t busy asking his girl to get down, getting down or apologizing for getting down, he’s a Perfect Gentlemen. Gentlemen has a celebratory flair, bringing some subtle orchestration to the dance-floor ready beat. There isn’t a radio smash on the album (apparently you need T-Pain for that, and Avant is almost completely guest-feature free), but Perfect Gentlemen’s balance of romance and good times has the best chance of making some noise on the airwaves. In a similar vein is the up-tempo Sensuality, a hypnotizing track that shows Avant’s more electronically oriented side, and the straight-up ballad Y.O.U., a song that soaks in the slow paced wanderings of a live ban . Both are solid songs that avoid the pitfalls of trying too hard, which is why it’s so strange to hear something like Sailing, a song I might have written if I was part of a corny 80’s pop band. Still, Avant does earnest, emotional and sexy R&B with the best of them, which is why I still can’t figure out why he’s only almost famous. This album won’t be enough to catapult Avant to the apex of stardom, but it should be enough to bring him one step closer. Mission accomplished...almost.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 01/20/09
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"When It Hurts" (2008)
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