Good r&b captures emotions too subtle for faster, less textural, less single-mindedly lovestruck genres. Take Avant, who’s got a friendly, chatty tone to his voice that familiarizes his thematic matter until I begin to imagine all relationships hinge on candlelight seductions, cheating, forgiveness, and roses—and that nothing could be more American. Then, when he busts into an honest Midwest partytime anthem like “Have Some Fun,” the effect is doubled. Which is the point of a good seduction: halfway to the bedroom before you even notice something’s up. A few tracks later, who wouldn’t fall for a chorus like, “I wanna be the smile you put on your face/I wanna be your hands when you say grace/I wanna be your favorite place”? Gene Kelly should dance to this! And on it goes—snapping, trapping, macking, stealing through a serious catalog of ways to pull girlies.
The one exception is “Don’t Take Your Love Away,” whose central keyboard figure is an inverted arpeggiated seventh, like Hoobastank uses on “The Reason,” but, y’know, swung harder. Instead of yowling though, Avant’s tenor glides above sweetly. Even when he’s down on his knees begging, it doesn’t seem too exhausting; the inverse of the cocksure creep of his previous single “Read Your Mind.” And in more ways than one: answering the almost–X Files question of what happens when such a strong psychic bond is severed, when the mind reader looks too close and senses something that maybe he wishes he hadn’t. Like the feeling when he reaches over and casually brushes his ex’s hair, ‘coz they’re still, y’know, friends: a sort of panic flight, a quick “no” and a turn of the head, the sharp cold line of a neck. Or at least that’s the feeling he imagines.