Avant | Face the Music (Capitol/EMI/Mo-B Entertainment)

avant face_75His vocals are like velvet interlaced through the beat.

 

Do you miss the authenticity and feel-good music of the late ’90s/early ’00s? Especially the male artists with their smooth vocals that made you feel like he created this song just for you? Well, on his new album, Face the Music, Avant iss not afraid to bring all those things back.

The lead single “You & I” takes us back to the magic of 2000’s “My First Love” cover with KeKe Wyatt – the duet that started such a great love story and musical partnership that was reminiscent of classic R&B from the ’80s. “You & I” continues the journey of the love story set in “First Love.” Life has unfolded and love has evolved as the years have passed: “Funny how things have changed in my life now whether near or far I want to be where you are.”

Listening to Avant and Keke sing, you can feel the realness that while they have experienced life separately. One thing’s for sure: The chemistry and love they once shared is ever-present and everlasting. “You and I together for always/ Baby I, breathe every single breath for you, baby/ Ooh boy, you and I one hell of a chemistry/ Baby I, I’m living out this life for you.”

On Face the Music, Avant pulls inspiration from classic R&B artists like Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Beverly & Maze, and Stevie Wonder. This old-school R&B influence especially dominates the tone of the album with his vast message of appreciating love. The passion in “More” alone invites you into this world of love. Avant makes it clear he wants to adore his love’s body with every strum of the strings in this tune. It’s definitely a lovemaking song.

The opening of the album also features “Toast to Love” and “80 in a 30.” While both tunes foreshadow an album filled with exhilaration and passion, they really don’t do anything for me. Snap your fingers and nod your head to the beat on “Excited” as Avant walks you through his pursuit of a woman who catches his attention in the club. His vocals are like velvet interlaced through the beat. “Ladies and gentleman and all the lovers around the world,” he intones, “I want to talk about the one I love. I know a lot of times we forget how they take good care of you, but tonight I just want to express the way I feel.”

That can certainly be the theme of the album. His tenor vocals make sure to integrate both old- and new-school R&B, all the while putting his personal handprint on each track. There are times in life that we get exactly what we want, but it often comes before we are really ready to receive it. “Don’t Know How” describes this sentiment precisely. The beat paints the inner conflict going on inside a man who has been playing the field for so long that now he’s faced with his ideal mate, but can’t bring himself to commit: “Girl, I’m in a different place/ I’m not the faithful type of guy, can’t help it/ I want your cake and some of hers, I’m so selfish girl/ I know you’re sick of all the games and my bull/ I understand how you feel/ I wish that I could love you, but I don’t know how to love you.”

I appreciate his honesty and realization that, as he can’t be the man she desires, it’s best to bow out gracefully. After that conflict of emotion, “Nobody’s Business” is exactly what you need to channel your inner Earth Wind & Fire concert. The trumpets on this song feel so lively and carefree, matching the lyrics perfectly. “Best Friend” details the encounter of two friends acting upon their undeniable attraction and sexual tension, after the girl breaks up with her boyfriend and solicits her guy best friend’s comfort on a different level. The heat of the beat perpetuates the apprehensive, yet scathing desire to risk the friendship to explore the unknown channels of each other. “I’m about to press send, I’m talking to my best friend,” Avant croons. You can feel the fight he’s having with himself as he sings each lyric. I love how he uses his higher ranger to illustrate his anxiety: “She’s vulnerable and I am too. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do/ I don’t want to feel different rolling with my best friend, yeah/ I was told that something like this could happen when you make the opposite your best friend.”

Sometimes you can search all around world and never find another person like that one guy or girl who makes you feel so special, so complete. That type of one-in-a-million love is what Avant is bragging about in “Like You,” and that can make any woman feel pretty amazing. Life is so uncertain: One minute you can be coasting on the waves of success and in the next breath be on the break of failure. In “When It’s Over,” Avant is second guessing his lover, desperately needing confirmation that she’ll still be there when the lights go down and there’s nothing left to cling to but each other.

The overall sound and vocal production of Face the Music are solid. Avant does a good job of re-introducing himself to his fans, and I’m sure he will gain some new ones; I just wish there were a few more collaborations on the album. I would have loved to hear a female vocalist over the salsa-infused symphony beat of “No.” It’s such a jazzy song that makes you want to grab your partner and dance the night away; another voice could really give it that extra oomph.

“Gratitude” closes out Face the Music, and it’s such culmination of his appreciation to women, to love, and to his love. Turn the lights down low, pull your lover close, queue Avant to provide the soundtrack for personal jazz lounge, and enjoy a night of love, appreciation, and good music. B- | Ashley White

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