Luckily Thomas gets the chance to inhabit that persona again on Something to Be, his solo debut. Untainted by the memory of bar-band crap like "Push," its sly pop is appealingly reminiscent of "Smooth," Thomas' 1999 duet with Carlos Santana. Something is flush with rhythm, texture, and melody, and though Thomas sings as if he's in an Olympic event -- grunting, sighing, and gasping with competitive gusto -- he's also willing to get sensitive: "When the Heartache Ends" rewrites "I Want It That Way" so gracefully that Thomas could find future work in boy-band ghostwriting. Live, Thomas still performs as if he thinks he has to prove himself. But, really, he's already done that.
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