December 03, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B

”I’m gonna need your undivided attention,” Avant informs his lady in ”When It Hurts,” the lead single from the singer’s fifth studio album. That’s every bit as true of this R&B crooner’s music as it is of his romancing: Avant is packed full of sturdy, no-frills soul tunes that at first seem to be background-ready — until you start to listen close and hear the way his singing complicates club-dude machismo with sensitive-guy melancholy. ”Break Ya Back” definitely overdoes it with the bedroom bravado (”When we get up in the sack/I’m gonna break your back/In a good way”). But mostly Avant proves that it?s possible to be both a lover and a fighter. B

Download This: Listen to songs from the new album on the singer?s MySpace

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