Pop songs are supposed to be simple. Sex, too. Neither ever really is. Few artists make this as abundantly clear as Van Hunt. His songs work your brain and your backside with equal vigor, spot-welding sophisticated melodies to an insistent groove and piling on lyrics that are as much about the consequences of intimacy and desire as celebrating bedroom action. Funky, sexy music isn't supposed to be this challenging; it's a lark, a diversion. Van Hunt's Popular is that, and more. Popular is Van Hunt's most assured work yet, cutting the apron strings tethering him to his primary influences of Prince and Sly Stone. This isn't to say that you won't find elements of both artists; you still love your mother even after you leave home, after all. The difference is that he advances the sexy assemblage of funk, rock, soul and all styles in between that he established with his first two discs, Van Hunt and On The Jungle Floor; it feels more like something he owns. "Popular" could apply to a kid struggling to get noticed in High School or anyone, really, who feels the modern affliction Van describes as "a pitiful need to be accepted," but a rap from Count Bass D sharpens its focus at the close of the song with rhymes like "there's a thin line between socialite and woman of the night." While this kind of insecurity recurs through different songs on Popular, don't mistake this as a confessional concept album. First, that's not how Van works. "Artists I admire, they always have a concept behind the record, but for me, I never have a concept. I guess that in itself could be a concept, but I called my mom this morning and I said, 'Mom, I need a word for creating without a concept,' and she said, 'well I don't know, but your music is an interruption to the status quo, I guess you could use that.'" Second, Van Hunt, as you may have gathered from overt sexuality of his music, is not an insecure man. It's a self-possession that extends to the recording studio, a confidence that makes complicated things seem simple. "For me, my satisfaction is through the work I do," he says. "Once I feel fulfilled, I'm done. That's the only measurement I use, honestly, because if there's something I love, no one can tell me anything about it."