by Pat Moran
With a keening, creamy tenor equally adept at fronting beats or an R&B band, Trey Songz finally shakes off those nagging R. Kelly comparisons. To be fair, early in his career, young hip-hop soul crooner Songz fell fully under the spell of New Jack Swinger Kelly's cool delivery and explicit carnality. That said, in seven short years, Songz has stepped out from under the "I Believe I Can Fly" guy's wings. In a field where personality often trumps talent, Songz possesses both qualities in ample supply. With all-star co-writers like Ryuichi Sakamoto plus mentor (and former Whitney Houston collaborator) Troy Taylor, Songz crafts hits that are not so much tunes as heat-seeking missiles targeted at the mainstream. This is both good and bad. He can easily descend to gleefully stupid fuck-crazy bangers like "Say Aah" and the salacious tag-team with Nicki Minaj, "Bottoms Up." Still, the swagger, though jacked-up, is genuine, because Songz is too voraciously ambitious to play it faux cool. When Songz plays it wide-eyed and vulnerable, as he does on the weepy ballad "Heart Attack," the results are gritty, grounded and convincing. Equally heartfelt and horny, Songz' wobbly mood swings are smoothed over by his magnificent voice. $45.50-$65.50. Dec. 14, 8 p.m. Bojangles' Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. 704-372-3600.