Fluck Howard Stern and let’s make it official—Jamie Foxx is the new king of all media. From Keenan to Cruise to Ray, from Oprah to Oscar to Kanye—it’s his time, he da man. They say all clowns long to do tragedy, but having aced that category with Ray, Foxx reveals across the breadth of Unpredictable that his real dream is to do Marvin Gaye. Sometimes he sounds like he’d settle for K-Ci and JoJo, but no harm in that when you’ve got Hollywood pimp juice. Foxx likes his soul with syrup and vinegar, so that even his lust songs come drenched with quirky emoting, placing him in the tradition of our favorite soul eccentrics—the original Parliament, Sylvester.
Unpredictable‘s guest list—Ludacris, Mary J., Snoop, The Game, Kanye, Common—assures us that Unpredictable is pure product, buffed-and-shined modern r&b. It will be cross-marketed like hell and sell sell sell; all kind of suckas will slow dance. But Foxx has also created a work geared toward sexual pleasure that will work its way into many a late-night floating-world session, not to mention points in between like the strip club (see “Get This Money”). The frigging beats alone—on “Do What It Do,” a greasier flavor of Mint Condition; on the Twista joint “DJ Play a Love Song,” Timba- land vs. the Dramatics vs. Bernie Worrell; on “VIP,” with its nifty Headhunters sample—are the kind of butter ‘n’ erotic chocolate designed to get one’s neck and shoulders turning, rolling, and cascading till ya feel like your goosing head’s gonna slide off. The Mary J. duet “Love Changes” bridges choice bits and pieces of the Emotions, the Isley Brothers, and Chaka, defying you to deny there’s a classic in the house. Go ahead, call it trope-adelic, call it machine poetics, but dammit sometimes the machine works. And if this duo puts you more in mind of Marilyn and Billy (McCoo and Davis) than Marvin and Tammi, hey, we’re not in the business of promising miracles, just listenables.
The funniest moment comes on “With You,” where Foxx manages with way too much sincerity and gravitas to deliver a perfectly overwrought gem of Black male confession: “Every time I tried to walk away/You put that ass on me and made me stay.” It’s like a “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” for cats so with it they can’t even get out of the bed.