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Will Maxwell’s New Conservative Look Lose Him Some Fans?

Hip-Hop Media Training

R&B heartthrob Maxwell looks drastically different than he did 8 years ago when he released his last album, the platinum Now.

Since his 1996 debut, Maxwell drew attention both for good looks and for his music, especially from women. He wore hishair in a massive wavy afro. He was frequently photographed shirtless,and if he was wearing a shirt it was unbuttoned.

Now,he looks more conservative. He has a short hair cut. He wears sleek,dinner party attire. He sometimes dons those thick nerd spectacles, andis pictured in promo shots holding an eco-friendly coffee cup.

I wonder if his extreme makeover will disappoint fans who were likely expecting the same slick, ladies man persona.

Gail Mitchell, R&B Editor for Billboard magazine, doesn't think Maxwell's female fans will love him any less.

"Personally,I like the large 'fro ... But he looks just as good with the shorthair," Mitchell says, speaking strictly from a 'female perspective.'"From what I've heard over the last couple of years, he's been rockin'the close-cropped look. I just think it's part and parcel of theevolution we all go through as we get older and become more comfortablewith ourselves, our image, etc."

Ironically, Maxwell, who cut his afro during his hiatus, told AP that abandoning his trademark hairstyle afforded him much needed anonymity during his break. 

But while Maxwell's appearance may play down his pretty boy attributes, songs from his new album, BLACKsummers'night, still offer a good balance of romantic mid-tempo ballads andslow jams. The album's first single, "Pretty Wings," is already No. 3 at Urban AC radio in just three weeks.

The positive reaction was evident last week at an album listening party held in Beverly Hills.  Music industry professionals were actually quite giddy to see the35-year-old back on the scene.

While Maxwell performed last year in an Al Green tribute on the BET Awards and spent some time touring, he says he also focused on growing up.

"[A] lot of my absence was based on just going out to get life experience, becoming a man," Maxwell told AP. "In your twenties you are just a sketch of what you're trying to be."

Those life experiences are conveyed in BLACKsummers'night, a trilogy to be released in installments over the next two years. The first is due out on July 7. Maxwell stayed in demand with fans who never lost hope even though BLACKsummers'night was delayed several times.

Apparently, the eight year vacation has done him some good.

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