The VIII (released September 25, 2015)
Have y’all see the Pixar movie “Inside Out” yet? And don’t run around here frontin like you don’t watch cartoons — half y’all still have Toy Story as your iPhone wallpaper.
Anyway, “Inside Out” is the story of a girl’s emotions battling it out inside her head. No, the little girl isn’t schizophrenic or psychotic, the movie simply depicts the emotional battles we all have every day. Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger are all represented.
Avant’s eighth studio album, entitled, um, The VIII, kinda reminds me of that movie — instead of five walking Sour Patch Kids arguing in someone’s head, imagine five or six Avants running around in someone’s heart. The VIII touches on nearly every romantic emotion in the spectrum in cinematic fashion.
First single “Special” is all about affection and sets the tone for the first half of the album. “You’re the most beautiful place I go when I dream,” he croons. Avant’s head is totally in the clouds while being lost in love. It’s no surprise that it’s become one of R&B’s summer anthems.
Affection morphs into lust on “Come Get It,” where he outright says “I know she not my lady” but that doesn’t stop him from chasing draws. On “Best Friend (Part II),” the sequel to one of the better tracks on Avant’s last album Face the Music, lust is replaced with confusion. “We started out as friends, should have kept it that way,” he laments, warning that sleeping with a friend comes with unfortunate consequences.
“Note” is wrapped in a melancholy cloud. While Avant runs the streets, he comes home to learn that his woman has left him for good. It’s the most well-constructed track on the album. It’s superbly written and is leaps and bounds ahead of the grammar-mangling “Mines Do.”
Yes, MINES DO. You can’t even PRONOUNCE that without your brain cells popping like bacon grease. It must be the editor in me but that track makes me wanna swing my red pen like a Shinobi sword. Lord.
But I digress.
While the album continues to run the emotional gambit, from apologetic (“Both of Us”) to conflicted (“I’m Not Telling”) to outright regret (“Doesn’t Matter”), there’s still a missing element. Ironically, the majority of the songs fail to make an emotional impact on the listener.
The “Inside Out” movie was cool because you witnessed what the main character went through and shared in her emotions. Her struggles became your struggles — you became part of the story. That’s what makes movies, and music, great. The VIII technically gets the emotional atmosphere right — nearly all the songs are performed well and feature solid production — but those songs fail to latch on to the listener. With a couple of exceptions, you won’t catch yourself humming a hook or reciting lyrics afterward.
The VIII tries its hardest tug to at your heartstrings but sometimes struggles to get your attention. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for sure, it just needs more high points to make it memorable.
Best tracks: “Note,” “Special,” “Come Get It”
3 out of 5