T-Pain, Thr33 Ringz
How has T-Pain done it? He's not attractive, his fashion sense leaves much to be desired (at least for those lacking Dr. Seuss/LSD fetishes) and his voice is nothing special without the benefit of the computer program Auto-Tune. And yet, considering his hip-hop and R&B radio dominance, critics can't argue with his claim to be "ringleader of the game." The circus theme informs Pain's third album, Thr33 Ringz, in which his task is moving beyond singles toward a memorable CD. Sadly, unfunny skits clog it up ("She had five different niggas' names tattooed on her left ass cheek / That's when a bitch gotta make a decision") and the sexy songs aren't nearly as alluring as they could be. "Chopped N Skrewed" is about, well, getting screwed, and his popular single "Can't Believe It" is essentially about Pain stashing his women around the world. You still have to salute his ability to rhyme "mansion" with "Wisconsin," but beyond that and a good beat, it's not exactly a grand slam. "Long Lap Dance" is about getting value out of your stripper, while "Therapy" is about relationship conflict ("Five, six, seven, eight, I don't need your sex / I'll masturbate"). All told, Thr33 Ringz's tracks aren't cohesive, and it doesn't work as a full-length album. That doesn't mean T-Pain is not still R&B's ringleader; it simply means he's not its P.T. Barnum. — Ben Westhoff
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