50 Cent: Curtis

The infectious single "I Get Money" offers the only moment of joy on Curtis, 50 Cent's otherwise dreary, disappointing third album. Even there, much of the song's enthusiasm is borrowed from the irresistible chorus of Audio Two's old-school anthem "Top Billin'." It helps that "I Get Money" and another standout track, "Straight To The Bank," are about a topic Cent is famously passionate about: money. He's less enthused about everything else.

Just three discs into 50 Cent's solo career, the law of diminishing returns has kicked in hard. The sugary "21 Questions" clones "Follow My Lead" and "All Of Me" find 50 once again dispassionately mumbling sweet nothings like a faltering android programmed for romance. "Ayo Technology" and "Amusement Park" follow the sexed-up template of "Candy Shop" and "Just A Li'l Bit" in providing strip clubs with the most perfunctory soundtrack possible. "Come & Go" and "Fire" are two more anticlimactic Dr. Dre collaborations from what now unmistakably appears to be the "boring" phase of the great producer's career. (See also Dre's tracks on Jay-Z's Kingdom Come.)

At least 50 Cent continues to experiment with his delivery. At the start of "Man Down," for example, he appears to be rapping with a mouthful of peanut butter, but the wit, hunger, and playfulness that transformed him from a mix-tape underdog into an international superstar are in short supply. He's still capable of cranking out a great single and the occasional clever verse, but he has yet to master the art of making a satisfying album rather than delivering a random assortment of demographic-pandering tracks. Cent will undoubtedly get more money for Curtis, but it'll be a victory as hollow and empty as his subject matter.

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