Picks and Pans Review: Superhero

UPDATED 10/15/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/15/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

Brian McKnight (Motown)

Unlike some showier R&B singers, Brian McKnight has never set out to prove that he can leap one octave in a single bound. His unassuming vocals have mirrored his persona as a soul Everyman, more Clark Kent than Superman. Which makes the immodest title of McKnight's fifth studio album a bit surprising. (At least he lowercased it: Here's to affected humility.) The disc opens with a bombastic classical instrumental, and on another track, the slow jam "Love of My Life," he adopts an unrecognizable falsetto that seems to scream, "Hey, check out my range!"

Mostly, though, the "S" emblazoned on McKnight's chest continues to stand for subtle on tasteful ballads ("Biggest Part of Me") and midtempo numbers ("Whatever You Want"). While superhero lacks a killer cut, it also has few duds. (One is the soft-rock title tune.) And his sugar-pop duet with 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake on "My Kind of Girl" should win McKnight plenty of young Lois Lanes.

Bottom Line: Not super but satisfactory

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