In the few years since T-Pain’s last album Thr33 Ringz, heavy applications of Auto-Tune have become the default; and associating him with the trend has almost become an afterthought. T-Pain probably has a right to complain, but either way, he still has the difficult task of proving that he has something new to offer while still holding his ground on the territory he carved out. Luckily, rEVOLVEr, actually does a pretty good job of doing just that, though that’s not to say that he’s a totally new man.
T-Pain obviously has an ear for what audiences want to hear and generally focuses on delivering it. “Bang Bang Pow Pow” (with Lil Wayne) sets the table for the rest of the album via the prototypical broad, dramatic beat, assuring listeners that the rest of the album won’t be filled with unwelcome experiments. He doesn’t shy away from obvious opportunities for hits—“It’s Not You (It’s Me)” features a liberal dose of the newly popular House sound—but doesn’t seem so preoccupied with formula that he’s afraid to branch out.
While T-Pain’s accomplishments seem more mathematical than artistic at times, he has a legitimate talent for catchy melodies and humorous lyrics, even ditching the Auto-Tune on “Drowning Again” to prove that he actually can sing. Elsewhere, “Default Picture” adds a new spin to the usual Pop ballad with a cute story about Facebook stalking. That kind of thing could easily learn towards being corny, but T-Pain always seems to be “in on the joke” just enough to keep it from going too far.
While rEVOLVEr is a reminder that T-Pain is more than just another of his own imitators, understand that this is still a T-Pain album. He’s very aware of his target audience and if you weren’t in that group before, don’t plan on joining it now. Mid-tempo numbers like “When I Come Home” or “Rock Bottom” aren’t particularly surprising and party-oriented tracks like “Bottlez” practically wrote themselves. These songs serve their purpose, but those expecting huge artistic leaps won’t find them.
T-Pain is definitely a better musician than most of the robot-voiced Pop acts he’s been retroactively lumped in with, so if anyone is allowed to make this album, it’s him. He hasn’t chosen to rest on the popularity of his sound, and as a result, rEVOLVEr is a good reminder that the reasons for his success go deeper than the novelty of Auto-Tune. No, his music isn’t appropriate for every situation, but when T-Pain is what you’re in the mood for, there’s still no better T-Pain than T-Pain.