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Bobby Valentino: Something to prove 

R&B singer reappears in 3-D

It seems nearly a lifetime ago when "Slow Down" dominated urban radio, and Bobby Valentino's sturdy, midrange tenor wafted through the summer air. Actually, it was less than two years ago, but the seemingly distant memory only underscores how difficult it is for a new pop artist to make a lasting impression.

With his follow-up, Special Occasion, Valentino has his work cut out for him. The 26-year-old singer's album has been pushed back several times; originally scheduled for last September, it now drops May 8. Press stories indicated that Internet leaks prompted Valentino to record extra tracks for the album. But Valentino says, "We wanted to make sure we put the album out with the right marketing and promotion."

Valentino is concerned with the public's perception of him as a pop crooner lucky enough to land "Slow Down" and its superior Tim & Bob production. He considers himself a serious R&B artist in the vein of Jodeci and Joe. "I wanted to step out the box a little bit, 'cause I didn't want to get caught, like, 'He can only do those type of records,'" says Valentino, alluding to "Slow Down."

To counter that perception, Valentino's label, Disturbing the Peace, issued two singles prior to Special Occasion. The first, "Turn the Page," was a smooth and likable ballad released last fall. "I wanted to show people that I'm a real singer, and my vocal ability is that of a real singer," he says. This year, he followed with the Timbaland-produced club track "Anonymous." "I want to show people that I can do club songs, I can do ballads, I can do it all.

"The problem with music now is people tend to only like the one song that you hear on the radio. I just want to show that I have different fields and different hot records on my album," he says, perhaps alluding to his self-titled debut and how it was overshadowed by "Slow Down." "If people hear more than one hot record, they'll be more likely to go get your album."

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