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Akon - Topic

Freedom Play

Akon spun off two number one pop hits and one number two from Konvicted, so he couldn't be blamed for working the same tricks on his third album, yet Freedom is a major change of pace -- the kind of drastic switch-up that normally happens after reaching a creative and commercial dead-end. Hip-hop and R&B are all but scrapped entirely. The set instead is rooted in the gleaming synthesizers and spring-loaded dance beats of Euro-pop. (That slamming jail-cell door trademark, deployed as much as ever, doesn't quite have the same alarming effect.) Akon sounds more comfortable than expected, and he reduces the lechery in favor of longing ("I wanna make up right now") and awe ("When I see you, I run out of words to say"). At times, the tensionless backdrops don't inspire Akon to do much with his pen; the chorus of "Beautiful" is basically "You're so beautiful, so damn beautiful," while falling for a stripper in "Against the Grain" is conveyed with "The way she drop down won't allow me to close my drawers." Even so, there's much more charm here than expected. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Konvicted Play

"Locked Up"'s success provided Akon with instant heavyweight clout. Upgraded from writing songs and doing the occasional hook for B-, C-, and D-level artists, he tallied a multi-platinum album, was granted his own boutique label (which was used to spawn T-Pain), and became in-demand as an A-list collaborator -- he worked with Young Jeezy, R. Kelly, Gwen Stefani, and even Elton John. His second album, Konvicted, isn't much different from the debut (patchiness included), even though it comes from a different perspective. He even addresses his newfound fame, along with the expectations and other forms of grief that come with it, in a vague but very saddened way throughout "The Rain." For the most part, though, Konvicted offers more ultra-macho R&B. The guest spots come from Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Styles P, leaving no room for female hooks or verses. Akon hits on strippers (but does not fall in love with them), smacks behinds, and tends to go with what suits him best: bragging and seducing while delivering like-sounding hooks in his unique voice. Whenever the yearning and heartache is allowed through, he's not persuasive, and he sounds like he still has the club on his mind. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Trouble Play

Senegalese-American ex-con Akon broke out with "Locked Up," a gloomy but thrilling paranoiac tail about drug running and jail time. Placed over a fittingly dramatic production worthy of 50 Cent, with a clamping beat, simple piano figure, and frightening slams of prison bars, the single set Trouble up to be a major success. Unfortunately, no other song on the album is nearly as gripping. The club tracks fall flat, most of the soul-searching moments feel forced, and the harder and more sexual tracks tend to be more silly than alluring. At its best, Trouble places you in Akon's turbulent world. At its worst, which is often, the album is excessively tedious. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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