Album: Akon, Freedom (Island)

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The Independent Culture

Senegalese R&B star Akon may be currently the world's most successful African performer, his own eight million album sales augmented by hit collaborations with the likes of Gwen Stefani and Leona Lewis.

By the time you read this, "Right Now (Na Na Na)" will probably be No 1, and its adhesive Auto-Tune vocal hook one of the most ubiquitous sounds on the airwaves, as the star regrets the split that deprived him of "my homie, lover, friend". The respectful tone continues with "Beautiful", though he does slip into tired hustler boasts for tracks like "I'm So Paid" and "Holla Holla". The latter stages of Freedom are more concerned with reflections upon his former lifestyle, as he mythologises hardships in "Freedom", praises some inspirational force – girl, or God? – for saving him when his life was heading "Over the Edge", and joins Wyclef Jean to reminisce about life in the ghetto on "Sunny Day". The emotive synth arrangements are like funkier versions of early Human League and John Carpenter themes. The key to Akon's appeal is his voice, which has a pleading tone that conveys an attractive vulnerability, but the over-use of the Auto-Tune gimmick, while not as extreme as on Kanye West's new album, begins to render tracks indistinct and interchangeable.

Pick of the album:'Right Now (Na Na Na)', 'Keep You Much Longer', 'We Don't Care'

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