Tank Talks ‘Stronger’ Album, New Musical Direction & Fans Cheating Him [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
R&B is dead -- or maybe not. Baby-making music may not dominate the airwaves anymore, but Tank is optimistic. The singer, who rose to fame with his 2001 debut 'Force of Nature' and, more recently, the Grammy-nominated trio TGT, is ready to bring sexy back for summer. Spearheaded by the Michael Jackson-infused single 'You’re My Star,' the veteran’s seventh studio album, 'Stronger,' is slated for a July release.
This is a new sonic direction for Tank. Known as a crooner, ballads have been the hallmark of his career, especially 2001's 'Maybe I Deserve' and '2007's 'Please Don't Go.' The latter also received a remix, which served as the first single for TGT -- the group even garnered a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album for their 'Three Kings' project in 2014. But this go-around, Tank isn't just sticking to slow jams -- he wants to evolve.
Read on as the Milwaukee-born, Washington, D.C.-bred entertainer opens up to The Boombox (in a very alluring voice) about switching up his style, catering to the ladies, fellas who do the bare minimum and the shift in R&B.
The Boombox: Hello there. I like that you’re using your sexy phone voice for this interview.
Tank: [Laughs]. This is definitely different from when I was a kid. When I was a kid and answered the phone, all of my girl cousin’s friends would just start talking to me like, “Girl, you do not believe what he did to me.” I had to give her the phone. It was like [says in high-pitched voice] “I’m a boy!”
Squeaky voice aside, have you always known that you have a special effect on women?
Yeah. I noticed it. I’m the caterer, the caretaker. Sometimes women feel uncomfortable to approach me but I’m the guy that makes it super cool, super fun. I crack the jokes and break the ice so being around me isn’t having to shower me with compliments or having to put on for me. It’s more about you. I’m happy to be around you. I’m grateful you want to be around me. That’s just me.
Watch Tank's 'Please Don't Go' Video
When it comes to dating, do you prefer to approach or do you like her to make the first move?
Women have to fight a little these days to get what they want. I tell people all the time, “It’s easier to find a good woman than a good man.” You have all these good women and a shortage of good men. Sometimes you gotta jump out there and not let that get by. A woman should be approached. A woman should be courted. I’m old school; that’s just what I believe. I’m not mad at the woman that jumps out there and sees some real potential and is willing to bet on it. I applaud both.
Speaking of changing times, social media has affected the way we appreciate music and R&B specifically has suffered, I think.
Absolutely. It’s consumed the way we deal with people, period. Naturally, the music is gonna be affected by that, mainly our music. Our music is so vibey and you have to take the time to make preparations. You have to light candles. You gotta throw some smell-good on. You gotta take a shower and get clean. That’s a whole lot of work for somebody who’s just trying to beat the p---- up. Let me send you a DM. It’s times when people don’t even talk on the phone. They’ll meet each other all with no phone conversation. That’s crazy to me. It affects the music.
Do you feel that we’ll miss the good old days and R&B will make a comeback?
We are coming full circle. People want to have life experiences and they want something to connect it to. They want to have the tangible. All of this fly-by-night stuff dissipates. You can’t even remember what the No. 1 song was last year. My biggest song came out in 2000 -- well, my fans do. There are people who heard me do the collaboration with Chris Brown and Joe Budden and were like, “Who is this guy? This guy is great.” I’ve been here for 14 years. People are now wanting that substance.
You’ve mentioned that R&B is in jeopardy and artists like Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake have essentially "stolen it." Are you optimistic about the genre?
I just think that we’re just chasing the wrong thing. What happened was that back in the day, when a rapper wanted to get on mainstream radio, he had to have a singer on [a song] because singing was the cool thing to do. You get all the girls.
Yeah. No one is getting pregnant to rap -- or should be.
Exactly. Then it shifted. It changed. It turned into, unless you have a rapper on your song, you’re not getting mainstream radio play. I think R&B artists took that as a sign to say, “We need to be more like rappers to get mainstream play.” We’ve continued to make adjustments to fit in with people we are nowhere near alike and the music has suffered as a result of it. If we get back to being sensitive, being honest in our music, people will buy it. As long as we’re trying to be rappers, nobody’s confused: It’s pretend. Singing, calling women out of their names? It’s not hot.
Foreplay is dead in music.
We moved into the player and pimp era. I’ll call one, If she’s not with it, I’ll call somebody else. No real time put into the relationship.
The advent of Auto-Tune has definitely affected R&B. Now, everyone thinks they can sing!
Right. You know what’s crazy? They’ll play a record from a rapper singing badly first before they play a song from a singer actually singing good. They celebrate the foolishness. I said the other day, “They‘ll celebrate a guy on TV frolicking with three or four women before they celebrate the man taking care of his kids and being faithful to his wife.”
When creating your new single 'You’re My Star,' did you think about what’s going on in current R&B at all or did you record whatever you wanted to?
It was kind of both. In making the song, I wasn’t relating it to anything outside of, it would be cool to make a song on this Michael Jackson bass line because it would be kind of classic but a new song. When we were finally doing it, adding the horns and all of these things, and what’s working out there, we were like, “This could be it.” It’s not the trend now. They’re not signing R&B artists now but this could very well be the future. For me, it leads to my strengths. I’m a musician. I’m a real singer, a songwriter with depth and imagination. I’m a real producer and I’m happier doing that. This is what I do well. For me, it was gonna be the song either way.
Listen to Tank's 'You're My Star'
Give us a sneak peek into the new album.
It’s a lot of tempo. That’s very different for me because people want to know if I’m gonna give them the ballads and I really wanted to refrain from a lot of the bad stuff music on this one. People have always been laid down to my music in some type of way and with this album, I wanted people to get up and have fun. I want people to smile and high five.
Are you worried the loyal fans will wonder what happened to the ballads?
I hope that they are because they haven’t shown up how they said they would. They’ll say “Oh my God. I want to hear this” and when I give it to you, you shortchange me. For me, I can’t chase the people that were listening to me last year. I gotta evolve so that the music reaches everybody.
How do you feel your fans shortchanged you?
In so far as showing up to shows. Showing up to the stores to buy the album. It’s like, one of those things, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. There’s Tank giving us those ballads again. Then you got those people like, “This is the Tank we like” but the numbers don’t reflect anything better or different about me. If you want some different results, you gotta do something different. I’m blessed to be in a different place in my life. I’m happy and everything’s working for me right now.