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To judge from his sexed-up, globe-trotting music, Philadelphia-based DJ/producer-turned-singer Vikter Duplaix fancies himself the main character in Prince’s pornographic 1982 ballad “International Lover.” That passionate but slightly psychotic love song, which concludes Prince’s apocalyptic 1999, depicts the Purple One charming his paramour with “diamonds and pearls, baby” and transforming his bedroom into a private jet christened “the Seduction 747.” Bold and a bit crass, the song nonetheless has a vintage R&B elegance that makes the goofy trip worthwhile.

Soul music has had more than its share of extravagant playboys over the past 21 years. From Keith Sweat to D’Angelo to Sisqó, these nu-Lotharios have tried to concoct the horny intensity of Prince’s pre-Jehovah’s Witness days, but few have succeeded at taking it to an appropriately überfreaky level while still emoting convincingly. Try as he might, Duplaix is no exception: He has neither the lyrical imagination nor the quirky sense of humor required to fill His Badness’ bikinis. What he does have are runway-model looks and, more important, an ear for good music, which often cloaks the lack of substance on his first proper album, International Affairs V1.0.

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Duplaix’s music has always sounded best when you’re not paying close attention to the lyrics. On 12-inches such as 2000’s “Manhood” and last year’s “Sensuality,” it was the fusion of traditional R&B with up-to-the-minute electronica that grabbed attention, not the adults-only content. And so it goes with International Affairs: Otherwise delectable cuts are marred again and again by Duplaix’s clumsy verbalizing. The bomba-driven “Tropical Girl,” for example, features the chorus “She’s a tropical girl…/Living in the digital world.” And the elastic “Morning Fun” finds Duplaix seducing his 9-to-5-working lady with loser lines such as “You look so cute with your professional vibe/And the smell good you’re rockin’/It’s making my nature rise.” Romeo this guy may be, but he sure ain’t no Shakespeare.

With lyrics about wanting to “drink red wine on a yacht going down the Nile” and “sipp tea in London, then catch a flight for fun to Brazil”—not to mention unapologetically Ibiza-fied beats—”Lust for Life” would seem to present Duplaix as a trust-fund brat who grew up on a Gulfstream. But on the same song, Duplaix reveals that he came of age in rough-and-tumble Southwest Philly: “I could’ve been a casualty of street circumstance,” he croons. “But instead I survive.” Unfortunately, like the other sex-free moments strewn throughout International Affairs, the line comes off as a weak attempt to establish some street cred. The tendency reaches its nadir with the thumping “What We Want,” on which Duplaix positions himself as the leader of some unspecified cultural/political revolution. But as the track unfolds, verses such as “From the womb we’ve been criticized/Born to a life full of discrimination/ Accused of everything, like being wild crazy crooks with no education” eventually devolve into the cheery, throwaway chorus: “We just wanna be loved.”

But what Duplaix lacks in lyrical ability, he usually makes up for in delivery. His grainy tenor, which sounds like a cross between Peter Gabriel and early-’90s one-hit-wonder Haddaway, entices like raw silk. There’s a finished quality to his singing that suggests formal training; he knows how to handle legato melodies as well as hiphop-influenced staccato. Sometimes, as on “Late Night Rendezvous,” his sleepy, come-hither crooning makes him sound more like an NC-17-rated poseur than a real playa, but more often than not, Duplaix’s vocals transform his mediocre material. On the beautiful slow-drag ballad “Desperately,” for example, he turns in one of his finest vocal performances, even when he’s moaning cornball lines such as “I crave an injection with more of your time.”

Duplaix’s true talent, however, is production. He began his career behind the boards with DJ Jazzy Jeff and Kenneth Gamble, one half of Philadelphia International Records’ legendary production duo Gamble & Huff. Later, he co-founded the Axis Music Group with keyboardist James Poyser and produced tracks for the Roots, Common, and Erykah Badu, among others. Although the team is best known for innovations in hiphop and nu-soul, Duplaix himself lives more on the deep-house and broken-beat end of the musical spectrum. Last year, he even made a noteworthy appearance on Jazzanova’s deep-house masterpiece In Between.

Indeed, when you take away the lyrics, International Affairs V1.0 is one of the most sonically riveting R&B/deep-house CDs to come along in a while. Sharing production credits with Poyser and Marc Mac of 4 Hero, Duplaix constructs a kaleidoscopic array of styles, ranging from percussive Afro-Cuban pop (“What We Want”) to rock (“Yesterday’s Pain”) to soulful broken beat (“Looking for Love”). Electronic touches have always been one of Duplaix’s strong suits, but here he’s also savvy enough to incorporate live percussion, guitars, and bass. The results are immaculate, artful, and very nearly cinematic.

It’s Duplaix’s knack for creating opulent ambiences that saves International Affairs from being a complete waste and, in some ways, puts him ahead of many of his R&B and electronica contemporaries. It’s really too bad that Duplaix isn’t content to twiddle the knobs and let others pen the songs. As a producer and a singer, he’ll sweep you off your feet. But as a songwriter, he’ll have you hoping that it’s just a one-night stand. CP