TREY SONGZ "Trigga" (Songbook/Atlantic) 3 stars
The awkward interviews. The harsh reviews. The Twitter Q&A in which he was asked why he continues "to be such a creep."
Last week wasn't great for Robin Thicke, the R&B star whose new album "Paula" - about his attempt to win back his estranged wife, Paula Patton - could enter the Billboard chart on Wednesday with sales of 20,000 copies, according to music-industry estimates. (Thicke's previous record, "Blurred Lines," debuted with 177,000.)
But as the old saying goes - well, sort of - a sinking ship lifts all the other boats floating in the same body of water.
So here comes Trey Songz, reportedly headed toward No. 1 with the strongest album of his career. A soul-music journeyman known for his imaginative sex jams, Songz has established himself in the R&B world. Yet he's never quite broken through to a mainstream audience, something he may finally be poised to do.
If that's the case, he hasn't cleaned up his act. "Trigga," the singer's sixth studio album, is delightfully raunchy, with bedroom talk that ranges from the efficiently straightforward to the impressively elaborate.
"Cake" lands in the middle - it's an etymological inquiry wrapped in a transparent dessert-related metaphor. "They say you can't have cake and eat it too," he sings, "But ain't that what you supposed to do?"
Elsewhere he details his predilection for women from other countries ("Foreign") and admires the sight of a lover "cooking naked, eggs and some bacon" ("All We Do"). In "Touchin, Lovin" he outlines a seduction, moving through the actions advertised in the song's title before borrowing an unprintable - and far more blunt - phrase from the Notorious B.I.G.
Even at his crudest, though, Songz remains likable, a function of his pleading tenor as well as his savvy presentation. In "Change Your Mind" he takes up his reputation as the love-'em-and-leave-'em type, telling a woman, "Saying I'm bad for you, that's fine / Sometimes bad is a good time." And he invites Justin Bieber to join him for a remix of "Foreign," which in a surely intended consequence makes Songz sound like the picture of cosmopolitan suavity.
"Just got back from Africa, I swear I saw 'bout 50,000 queens," he sings. And Bieber? "Shout out Miami," offers the teen-pop star, "for having so many foreign babes."
"Trigga" matches Songz's sense of sophistication with immersive production, as in "SmartPhones," a shimmering electro-soul track overlaid with gorgeous multi-tracked harmonies.
Like all of "Trigga," it's recommended to R&B fans skeeved out by "Paula" - including (perhaps in particular) Patton herself.