An album like Best Night of My Life has a tall task in proving, against every indication, that it’s not entirely pointless. By this point, Jamie Foxx attempting an R&B vanity project has lots its novelty appeal, and the album’s swollen stable of guest stars hardly elicits as much surprise as Foxx would like—nothing spectacular at a time when so many hip-hop songs feel as chummy and crowded as treehouses. Yet despite the fact that so much of what is exhibited here is nonsense, that Foxx’s attempts at winsome buoyancy and dirty talk seem visibly forced, never challenging his status as a mildly charming cipher, the album somehow justifies its own existence.
This is mostly because, despite its litany of producers, Best Night of My Life ends up with a sound so uniformly frigidly that it’s almost post-apocalyptic. This is soul as composed by robots, the usual heart and feeling sublimated into a manifestly mechanical system. It’s an environment that allows Foxx, clearly itching to fill the role of the sexually invincible loverman, to combine coldly automatic focus with coldly efficient production. He drops his share of deafening clunkers, poisoning some songs so badly that they become unlistenable. But others, mostly those where he stands back and croons harmlessly in the background, are deliciously chill.
The collusion of Foxx’s mechanized personality with the wonderfully clinical production seems like a happy accident, but it becomes less surprising when you realize both are the sound of money. Everything about the album, from the top-tier nature of the guests to the perfect sheen of Foxx’s voice (if he wasn’t born with it, he’d have had it surgically implanted) sounds expensive, a luxury that allows it to excel where a cheaper project might have floundered.
Second single “Living Better Now” bounces a plinking raindrop background off of Foxx’s effects-blasted voice, supplemented by spoken advice and chants from a diverse peanut gallery. It’s the album’s best track, but the decision to slot in a Biggie sample as a bassy counterweight is especially egregious when the equally profondo Rick Ross is right there, held in reserve except for a brief late-song verse. It’s this kind of careless maximalism that produces junk like “Winner,” a whirring waste of a Justin Timberlake appearance, a song whose basketball theme and cheesy dribble beat sound like something ripped from High School Musical.
When left on his own, Foxx seems drained of bluster, settling into a mode that varies between tender and sex-crazed, never landing on a defined style. This weak presence results in things like the soporific “Sleeping Pill” and the irredeemably awful “Rejoice,” with its ridiculous wails and tales of simultaneous climaxes. It’s only on songs like “Freak,” when Foxx’s attempts lock in with the flashy aloofness of the production, that the album truly works, proving its status as a shiny bauble worthy of its high price tag.