Magic Johnson's first music-biz signing, Avant enjoyed a platinum debut five years ago. But if his track record since those heady days has been more modest, it's also offered something rare: the story of a talented soul singer steadily building a career away from the hype.
Private Room, the third album from this Cleveland native (and current resident), spawned his biggest hit to date, the slow jam "Read Your Mind." His upcoming fourth outing, Director, promises to up the ante again with big-name cameos (Lil' Wayne) and producers (Jermaine Dupri) that Avant has so far largely avoided.
Opening for Avant at the WENZ/ WZAK Jingle Jam will be a pair of female artists who made auspicious debuts in 2005. You've undoubtedly heard Olivia delivering the raunchy hook to 50 Cent's smash "Candy Shop." But it's Keyshia Cole, a young industry veteran from Oakland -- although still in her early 20s, she broke in with MC Hammer a decade ago -- who should have the staying power. Her The Way It Is features collaborations with Kanye West, John Legend, and Alicia Keys, and turns Cole's bad relationship experiences into good, sometimes compelling R&B.