Tyrese: Untapped Potential

Listening to Tyrese’s brilliant cover of Teddy Pendergrass’ “When Somebody Loves You Back”:

…might sound like a revelation if you already done forgot about this:

…or how he’s so amazing a vocalist that he can give perhaps his greatest vocal performance on a song where he completely steals the entire song away from three other superb vocalists*:

But what had happened was that, though the Coke commercial put him on the map and made it virtually impossible to deny his talent, his debut dropped in 1998 at the exact moment that the kind of music at which he excels – and the kind of vocalist that he typifies** – was on the commercial decline.

And so what we saw was 10 years of a monumentally talented vocalist spending more time acting (pretty darn well in Baby Boy, eye candy and wasted in everything else) than doing what he loves the very most – which, in turn, made it very easy to forget that Tyrese really is one of the most gifted vocalists to emerge in the past 20 years.

Good on him then for releasing this cover, which represents a kind of reintroduction to Tyrese the Vocalist – providing us with a prime example of what I mean when I say “one of the most gifted vocalists to emerge in the past 20 years.” Tyrese’s tone is clear as a bell here, in contrast to his sometimes nasally tone in the past. And his phrasing is gorgeous (listen to his vocalizing at the end), without being a copy of Teddy’s. In fact, he manages to capture the grown man essence of Teddy Pendergrass without losing himself in homage, which is not as easy to do as one might think.

In the same way Jaheim managed to find himself this past year, I hope that this Teddy Pendergrass cover heralds a new, deeper and more interesting phase in Tyrese’s musical career.

*This is not to say that Ginuwine, Case, and R.L. do poor jobs. Never that. Tyrese just nails his section of the bridge, so much so, that R.L. is forced to try to take that emotion to the next level and almost…almost…makes it. 

**Sadly, we have been in what feels like an interminably long historical moment that seems to prize thin-voiced new jacks over all other kinds of male R&B vocalists since the late 1990s. The dominance of singers like Chris Brown to J. Holiday to Brandon Hines – who are, vocally, the same artist – has crowded out vocalists like Tyrese, Case, and Jaheim. I hope this changes soon.

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
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