T-Pain: rEVOLVEr

It’s now common for labels to take a mulligan on underperforming singles from R&B and rap acts, but RCA has set the do-over record with T-Pain’s fourth album, rEVOLVEr. Four of the record’s advance singles were left off the final tracklist after they withered on the charts, a humiliating failure rate for a star who dominated the airwaves just a few years ago. Among the lowlights of rEVOLVEr’s refuse pile are “Take Your Shirt Off” and “Booty Wurk (One Cheek At A Time),” boorish party tracks that work as case studies for how the once-ubiquitous singer wore out his welcome. T-Pain’s best singles charmed with a soft, finger-snap prettiness, but as the singer’s signature Auto-Tune fell out of favor, his tracks grew louder and more desperate, and the smooth, ingratiating oddball of his early hits gave way to a bawdy, screaming lunatic—a sort of cyborg Lil Jon, wired for maximum overkill. 

It’s not a coincidence, then, that the two advance singles successful enough to make rEVOLVEr’s final cut tamed T-Pain’s party-animal shtick considerably. Unfortunately for the singer, it’s also not a coincidence that those singles looked outside of T-Pain for their choruses. Chris Brown, the closest thing the R&B charts have to a silver bullet, carries “Best Love Song,” while “5 O’ Clock” became a bona fide hit on the novelty of its enchanting Lily Allen sample. 

“5 O’ Clock” is rEVOLVEr’s most interesting experiment, but it’s also an outlier, teasing new directions the album has no intentions of exploring further. Despite the title’s promise of evolution, the record mines the same club-banging, shawty-romancing formula of the singer’s boom years, to ever-diminishing returns—even the tracks that lock into nice-enough grooves are never remotely as catchy as his heyday singles. T-Pain keeps the bottles popping, but his hooks have dried up.

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