Akon

Freedom

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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.

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