Jamie Foxx

Unpredictable (J)

After Jamie Foxx's career-defining performance as Ray Charles, the most predictable move he could have made was to resume a musical career that has been dormant for the past decade. It's also not surprising that Foxx would recruit several heavy-hitting friends — Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, and Ludacris among them — to help get these tunes over. The only unpredictable element would be whether Unpredictable was worth a second listen.

It is — which says something about the persistent weaknesses of mainstream urban music as well as Foxx's own talent. While the lyrics about clubbing, strippers, and even the obligatory shoutout to Grandma could have come from any wannabe baller's notebook, the backing tracks reflect Foxx's fast-approaching date with the big 4-0: They're mellow, musical, and middle-age-friendly. Even "Can I Take You Home?" smothers Timbaland's techno bass line beneath a pillowy ballad. It makes for an accomplished album that has its moments (the perkily romantic duet with Blige, "Love Changes," is better than anything on her last outing), but Unpredictable would be less remarkable coming from another source. Foxx has the timing and delivery to sell wittily conversational songs like "Extravaganza" or the sex-obsessed "Three-Letter Word," but not, as yet, the skill to make more predictable material memorable.

 
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