Avant follows up 2010’s The Letter with his seventh album, 2013’s Face the Music, via MO-B. Face the Music is Avant’s first album for an independent label. Previously, he’d been signed to MCA, Capitol, and Verve Forecast. Despite moving from major to indie, Avant concedes little swagger on Face the Music, continuing to epitomize and capitalize on comparisons to R. Kelly. Avant’s tenor shines like a beacon throughout the 12-song set (14 in iTunes edition), never ceding emotion as he seeks to pay homage to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Babyface amongst others. The material, written/co-written by Avant, and produced aside Dre Hen and Kajun, has its moments, though sometimes the songs are too similar and predictable.
“Toast to Love” opens considerately, paying ode to love against a lush, adult contemporary R&B backdrop. “Never thought I would be the one to have love come my way / now that it’s here / I will treat it like sunshine in a day,” Avant thoughtful sings on the refrain. He trades chivalry for lasciviousness on the sleek “80 in a 30”, aided by sexy contributions from singer J’Lyn ““Lingerie, sexy thinkin’ bout what you gon’ do to me”) and rapper/producer Kajun, who quickly drops a Lamborghini Murciélago reference. Risqué, “80 in a 30” is arguably one of Avant’s most notable songs in years and undeniably clever metaphorically.
Avant returns to his gentlemanlike swagger on his reunion with Keke Wyatt on duet “You & I”. Smooth and sexy, the chemistry on the set’s lead single is undeniable. The cut closes capably with vocal interplay between the two as it fades out. After “You & I” momentum slows with “More” and “Excited”, both cuts focused on the bedroom that are good but not great. “Don’t Know How” is solid as well, without being an ultimately allurement. Here, Avant’s clear lead vocals yearn of how he wishes “that I could love you / but I don’t know how.” An incredibly slow tempo makes the cut feel more draggy than introspective.
“Nobody’s Business”, albeit it somewhat melodramatic, redirects a temporarily sputtering Face the Music, changing gears to updated Motown production work. Avant sounds reinvigorated, showing more personality the likes of earlier triumphs with cutting edge lines like “But as long as we’re together, I don’t give a…” Things cool once more on “Best Friend”, a cut slated in modern R&B/alt-hip hop sensibility and “Like You”, which has it’s moments but ultimately lacks profundity.
As always, stronger cuts to atone as standout “When It’s Over” goes deeper. A more commanding Avant takes the reigns here, asking his lover “Will you still care / when it’s over, when the party’s over?” Avant ultimately alludes to being genuine and unfazed by fame and money. “NO” is less satisfying, but puts Avant in a pop setting that is a contrast to his past endeavors. “Gratitude”, the closer on many editions, finds Avant thanking his significant other in sound pop-soul fare. “Your Face” and “Human” close the iTunes edition, both sporting some worthwhile pros.
Overall, Face the Music is a solid R&B album, not an exceptional one. Avant does more than enough to secure another good album, but not quite enough to propel it to being a great one in his discography or in the music world. “80 in a 30” and “You & I” are superior juggernauts that few other cuts are able to match. Avant doesn’t, however, miss horribly on any of the set, and sings exceptionally throughout, both redeeming attributes.
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