Singer, music producer
R&B singer/producer Avant launched his solo career at age 22, quickly drawing comparisons to fellow new-style R&B crooner R. Kelly. He was the first act signed to former Los Angeles Lakers' basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Magic Johnson Music, a subsidiary of MCA. Avant, like Kelly, took an increasing interest in working behind the scenes. He collaborated with producer Steve "Stone" Huff on his early recordings, but by his third release, Private Room, he was handling a significant portion of the writing and production duties himself.
Born Myron Avant (he uses only his last name professionally to avoid being confused with the R&B artist Myron) in 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio, Avant was the youngest of six children, and was raised in the city's 110th St. and Woodland Avenue neighborhood. He sang in the choir at the now-closed Union Hill Baptist Church, and listened to the music of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, the O'Jays, and the Isley Brothers. "I love the old-school music, but I don't like to call it old school. I like to call it great music," he told John Soeder of Cleveland's Plain Dealer. Avant won numerous talent shows, including the Cleveland Black Expo, and studied music and drama at the Cleveland School of the Arts, graduating in 1995.
The following year, Avant was performing with a friend named Doc in a duo called Dam, and the pair sent a videotape to Chicago-based entertainment manager Eric Payton. Payton convinced Avant to go solo, and introduced the singer to Huff. The pair began writing songs together, and Payton initially released Avant's single "Separated" on his Paytown Entertainment label. The song received significant airplay on radio station WGCI in Chicago, and was included on a 1999 MCA records compilation album, Summer Heat. Almost immediately, Avant began drawing comparisons to R. Kelly. "Like R. Kelly, Avant is a multifaceted craftsman, crooner, composer, and arranger," wrote Charles E. Rogers in the New York Amsterdam News. "His lush vocals contain a heightened sense of passion that is intimate; often bordering on breathtaking, if the unsolicited opinions of smitten females who've heard him sing account for anything." The staff at Johnson's fledgling Magic Johnson Music heard a demo of the tape, and Johnson decided to make Avant his label's debut artist.
Magic Johnson Music/MCA released My Thoughts in May of 2000. Most of the songs on the album were co-written by Avant and Huff, and Huff produced the album. The album featured "Separated" as a single, and soon after the album's release Avant related to Soeder the events that inspired the song's lyrics: "The story behind 'Separated' is I was 17 and I was dealing with someone who was 24. I wore my heart on my sleeve. My mom told me I shouldn't jump out there that early. But you know, a brother has to get his feet burned." The album also included nods to the singer's old-school R&B influences, as Avant covered Rene & Angela's 1983 R&B ballad "My First Love," and sampled Isaac Hayes's "Wonderful" on "Reaction." The comparisons to Kelly continued. Avant referred to the honor in an interview with Vibe Online. "Being compared to R. Kelly is a compliment in itself," he remarked. "He's been in the game for about twelve years. He is Mr. R&B. To be in the game, and to be named in the same sentence as that man is truly a privilege."
Magic Johnson Music/MCA released Avant's second album, Ecstasy, in 2002. Huff served as arranger, played all the instruments, and acted as executive producer alongside Avant, Payton, and Johnson. The album featured a variety of musical styles, and included the top five R&B single "My First Love," a duet ballad with Keke Wyatt. Avant also dueted with Wyatt on her single "Nothing in This World" that same year. The Gap Band's Charlie Wilson was featured on another single, "One Way Street." "Showing his flexibility, Avant demonstrates that he is as comfortable with hip-hop-friendly funk as he is with romantic ballads and slow jams," observed Alex Henderson in All Music Guide. The singer told Billboard magazine's Toi Moore in 2002 that in the wake of national tragedy he wanted to focus on uplifting topics. "Since September 11, , I've been trying to make lovemaking something that's very serious. … I want people to understand that more love should be in the house. There's no time for arguments." The singer defined the album's title in Ebony that same year. "My definition of ecstasy is making love to a woman mentally," he said. "It's about getting into a relationship that lasts. Men must treat their women right and make [a woman] feel like she's the queen of the Earth, because that's the truth."
The Geffen label released Avant's album Private Room in 2003. The singer told Vibe Online that he tried to make this album more intimate, especially for his female listeners. "With Private Room, I tried to be more personal with my fans, 'cause I feel like they didn't know me," he said. The album featured the crossover single "Read Your Mind," which broke into the top 25 on Billboard's pop charts. In 2004 Avant had a cameo role in the film Barbershop 2: Back in Business. Along with Wyatt, he recorded a cover of Ashford & Simpson's "Your Precious Love" for the film's soundtrack.
Avant told Billboard's Moore that patience and persistence have proven to be the keys to his success. "It wasn't easy for me," he said. "I tried for more than six years to get into this industry. Then I finally got my package to Magic Johnson. He heard it and made things happen. You just have to take it one day at a time." He told Vibe Online that he tries to write songs that have enduring appeal. "I try to make songs that mean something to people, that will stick with them," he said.
My Thoughts, Magic Johnson Music/MCA, 2000.
Ecstasy, Magic Johnson Music/MCA, 2002.
Private Room, Geffen, 2003.
For the Record …
Born Myron Avant in 1978, in Cleveland, OH. Education: Graduated from Cleveland School of the Arts, 1995.
Sang with Union Hill Baptist Church choir and performed in duo Dam prior to launching solo career; first album, My Thoughts, became inaugural release on basketball star Magic Johnson's Magic Johnson Music/MCA label, 2000; second album, Ecstasy, released on the same label, 2002; Private Room released on Geffen, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Geffen Records, website: http://www.geffen.com. Website—Avant Official Website: http://www.avant-music.com.
Billboard, March 16, 2002.
Ebony, June 2002.
New York Amsterdam News, April 9, 1998.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), May 29, 2000.
"Avant," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (March 15, 2005).
Avant Official Website, http://www.avant-music.com (March 15, 2005).
"Interview: Avant–Third Time's a Charm," Vibe,http://www.vibe.com (March 14, 2005).
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