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Avant (R&B): The VIII *

Track List

>Find a Way
>Lights Off
>Come Get It
>Best Friend
>Both of Us
>I'm Not Telling
>Mined Do
>You Know Better - (featuring Malone)
>Take It There
>Doesn't Matter

Album Notes

Fifteen years since he debuted, Avant delivers his eighth album. It affirms that he's an industry survivor. He arrived during an era when most R&B artists who received media attention were retro-minded, dirty-minded, or pop-oriented. Apart from a diversion here and there -- "Break Ya Back" for instance -- Avant never fell squarely into one of those designations. He continued to release new albums every couple years without alienating his fan base, as his voice gradually became richer, and while freshening his approach with new collaborators. That continues with The VIII, almost all of which was made with Travis Sayles, a keyboardist, songwriter, and producer who previously worked on a wide range of recordings by the likes of Meek Mill, Derrick Hodge, and Ariana Grande. Though this is as sonically consistent as any previous Avant album -- mostly silky, with a little grit here and there -- the subject matter fluctuates in the extreme. For instance, a tale about a platonic relationship that went too far (a sequel to Face the Music's "Best Friend") is immediately followed by a ballad in which he is left by a lover he suspected of cheating, and then that's trailed by a slow jam of devotion, where he delicately vows "I'll never leave you again." Those three songs don't come close to summarizing the ground the singer covers. The material ranges from heart-on-sleeve pleading, heard best on the opening "Find a Way," to a belligerent scolding on display in "You Know Better," a tune likely to be left off the set list of any ladies-only concert. Longtime fans nonetheless should have little trouble quickly identifying a handful of cuts that rate with the past highlights. ~ Andy Kellman


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