NEW YORK (AP) — R&B star Tank began thinking about his latest album after considering pursuing other endeavors. However, that timeline was accelerated after he lost one of his most essential tools: his hearing.
“It just made me look at time differently. It just made me go, ‘Man, if I can lose one ear in three days, I can probably lose the other in the next three,'” said the singer, who released “R&B Money” this month. “You just realize you don’t have as much time as you think you do.”
Last year, he discovered he was suddenly deaf in his right ear while losing significant hearing in his left, although the left recovered.
“You start taking a drug that’s supposed to help your ear, but it’s hurting everything else,” Tank explained of the side effects. “So when the engineer is mixing and he’s doing amazing things that go from left to right, and he’s like, ‘Did you hear that?’ I didn’t. …So it was a moment of depression.”
But the man born Durrell Babbs, who describes himself as a competitor, worked to create a 17-song, decidedly rhythm-and-blues record during an era when the lines between R&B and rap are often sonically blurred. A rare independent artist who can write, produce and sing, he wrote or co-wrote every song.
Tank immediately sets the intended tone of his ninth studio album by masterfully showcasing the lost art of slow jams with “When You Dance,” “Home” and “No Limit” featuring Alex Isley.
“You’re going to drown in sensuality,” the five-time Grammy nominee said with a smile. “I’d rather be with someone you’re attracted to.”
For “See Through Love,” he linked up with superstar Chris Brown, whom he’s known since Brown’s teenage years. Tank sent music to the superstar, who responded, “Bro, I love the record… I just wanna do some classic R&B with you.” So Tank continued: “I sent him ‘See Through Love,’ and he sent 8,000 fire emojis and said, ‘It’s gonna be done tonight.’
Previously released singles “I Deserve,” in which he creatively sampled his hit “Mabe I Deserve,” and “Can’t Let It Show,” which reworked the Kate Bush song that Maxwell introduced to music listeners in color, also appear. in the album; both reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart. And he managed to get the vibe going with “Make Sure” featuring Feather and “It’s Nothing.”
Singing backup during the late ’90s for R&B icons Ginuwine and Aaliyah, Tank launched his solo career with 2001’s “Maybe I Deserve.” He has released a score of hits like “One Man,” as well as the hits no. 1 “Please Don’t Go” and 2017’s “When We”. Five albums reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart during his two-decade career, maintaining relevance through R&B changes.
Tank is coming out at a special time; despite some questioning the direction of the genre, R&B is experiencing a resurgence thanks to young, talented artists and fans who want more than just party music. But the “Heartbreaker” singer wants to focus on shaping the next generation of talent as he builds his record label and help keep the genre popular while it still has “some staying power.”
Starring in last year’s Lifetime movie, Lust: A Seven Deadly Sins Story, Tank hopes to delve deeper into acting and even delve into stand-up comedy. But he says he will continue to perform and release songs from time to time, but won’t commit to a time-consuming job.
The music industry has traveled through various iterations during Tank’s tenure, and he has weathered all the storms. But his heaviest rain may be the one he’s currently harboring, sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
“I just refuse to let my ear win. I refuse to let the dizziness win. He should have killed me, if that’s what you were trying to do,” he said. “But since you didn’t, I’ll find a way to be better and stronger.” ___
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