Is he a singer? Is he a rapper? Is he just a bad dancer with a bad boy reputation? Akon has courted controversy since his first record was released in 2004 - whether it's crimes against music (the godawful 'Lonely', the only song that could possibly be more irritating than the Crazy Frog), being kicked off a tour with Gwen Stefani for simulating sex with an underage fan on stage, or having charges brought against him for hoisting a teenage boy upon his shoulders and hurling him into a crowd of onlookers. The most ironic thing about the Senagalese star is that his off-stage antics are infinitely more colourful than his music.
In a way, it's not surprising that Akon has managed to sell millions of records: his is the sort of music that crowds of doorway-loitering, hoody-donning teenagers congregate around mobile phones to listen to. What is surprising is that the talentless goon has worked with some of the biggest names in r 'n' b and hip-hop: Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Wyclef Jean and T-Pain all make contributions to Freedom, while a duet with Michael Jackson astonishingly didn't make the cut (that 'Prince of Pop' crown is well and truly tarnished).
Simply put, this is an album of sub-Axel F beats and effects; a combination of annoyingly catchy Autotune-enabled hooks, and cheesy lyrics reliant on pointless sleaze (Beautiful, We Don't Care and Holla Holla ("I know you're a sex machine, and I wanna do sumthin' new to you" etc., etc.) amongst the worst culprits.) As a matter of fact, it's only Young Jeezy's gangsta gurgle and Lil Wayne's slick rhymes on I'm So Paid that make Freedom - an album that won't hold your attention even as far as the mid-way point - anything close to worth listening to. Akon is making a successful career out of chancing his arm - and he knows it, too.