Blame It On Band Camp

Two years or so ago, heavyweight r&b producer Dallas Austin was in Los Angeles putting together the soundtrack for Drumline, a putatively star-making vehicle for Nick Cannon, Nickelodeon's G-rated Dave Chappelle, thinly veiled as that rare Hollywood specimen: the breezily moralistic marching-band dramedy. *NSync's JC Chasez was in town too, "just chilling," he told me a few months ago, so one day Austin called him up and recommended he drop by the studio. Within days the pair had written "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)," a nutso hunk of chopping-board funk (with an actual drumline!) whose flavor long outlasted the film's.

That must've sucked for Cannon, but I bet the young star's even more peeved now that Chasez's solo debut has eclipsed his own self-titled bow, the cover of which features him snuggled inside the same fur-lined parka Paul Simon sported on hiseponymous debut, in 1972. Cannon's problem isn't his so-so flow or, as befits an experienced bizzer, his taste in collaborators: Big-ticket beatsmith Just Blaze, a little adrift now that his Blueprint classmate Kanye West dropped out and turned on, laces "Get Crunk Shorty" with paranoid synth stabs, and R. Kelly turns "Gigolo" (a title Kelly's lawyers probably stress over daily) into pure fur-lined pleasure. Rather, it's the actor's inability to shake the pork from his fork that hamstrings Nick Cannon. He brags about expensive cars and inconsequential sex, but in jarringly likable after-school fashion; when Mary J. Blige flexes her Gucci-bagged gravitas in "Whenever You Need Me," she comes off like Cannon's mom calling him home for dinner.

On the agreeably pervtastic Schizophrenic, Chasez sounds as eager to shed his cream-cheese boyband image as Cannon seems to ditch his squeaky 'tween-TV profile. Mainly that means slipping off his SpongeBob SquarePants; though Justin Timberlake's Justified no doubt gets Cameron Diaz thinking very bad things, JC's record boasts a virtual vanilla sky of engorged Caucasian flesh: nightclub lesbianism, bedtime masturbation, waking-hour fantasy, one-night-only monogamy. Yet where Cannon macks like he's in an audition, Chasez really sells his shit, accessing a battery of convincing moans in "Shake It," overdubbing a choir of groans in "Come to Me," even graciously thinking up "100 Ways" to freak your lover. And the songs' grooves, courtesy of Basement Jaxx, Riprock 'n' Alex G, and Paris Hilton pal Robb Boldt, back him up with a sonic palette wider if not deeper than Justified's. If Chasez ever pees on somebody, I'd recommend covering this one up quick.

 
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