Earlier this year, thesmokinggun.com took a look at popular R&B singer Akon's bio, then exposed him as a potential phony. By unearthing police documents, the website showed that the Senegalese-American star behind hits like "Locked Up" and "Don't Matter" greatly exaggerated his arrest record and incarceration time. So on his third album, Freedom, he downgrades himself from Konvicted (the title of his last CD) to "Troublemaker." The only problem is, without the criminal façade, Akon isn't nearly as interesting. Even the album's title track is not so much about his release from prison but rather an existential cleansing. (Sonically, it's quite similar to George Michael's "Freedom '90," although one assumes Akon had different thoughts in his head while he recorded it.) Elsewhere, the disc is mostly a snoozefest, with Akon riffing on love and sex on downbeat, saccharine club ballads like "Beautiful," "Keep You Much Longer," and "Be With You." The only signs of life are the Wyclef Jean-assisted "Sunny Day" and the album's best track, "I'm So Paid." The latter sees Akon briefly returning to thug mode — well, driving over the speed limit while carrying an unlicensed firearm, anyway. It's enough to make one nostalgic for his previous, bogus persona. Sure, Akon's not a gangster. But neither is Robert De Niro, and everyone likes it when he plays one.
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