by Dom Jones
I’ve always been a huge Tank fan, but I’ve also always been waiting for him to push out of vacillating between these brief sparks of his unique brilliance and acquiescing to what he thinks is currently “hot” in the industry. The latter has resulted in some of my least liked music by Tank, and as a fan, it’s frustrating because his vocal prowess cannot be challenged, his songwriting capacity basically set Jamie Foxx’s career as an R&B singer up for success (see: ‘Unpredictable,’ Jamie’s first album with mega commercial success, on which Tank wrote most of the tracks). When Tank released a gorgeous cover of Bonnie Raitt’s classic song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” in 2010, I thought that we were headed into a brighter and more mature era for Tank. And while I would have to wait until after albums released in 2010 and 2012 (‘Now or Never’ and ‘This is How I Feel,’ respectively), I finally got what I was asking for with 2014’s ‘Stronger.’
The ‘Stronger’ album marked what I thought was an important evolution for the crooner who had spent his career, up to that point, on the periphery of megastardom. The first single, “You’re My Star,” was nothing short of brilliant homage to earlier soul sounds and aesthetics (which Justin Timberlake has easily found success with on singles like “Suit and Tie” by the way), but with disappointing first and second week sales, Tank’s then-label, Atlantic Records, halted production on the video for the album’s title track and all promotional efforts to push the album to the masses. I felt angry that Tank’s superior sound in this lane wasn’t receiving the level of belief from his label and recognition from the masses, and Tank was definitely upset. His Instagram rant included the statements: “Maybe I should have been born white then all my music would go straight to mainstream,” “I look better, sing better, produce better, write better, and perform better than dam near everybody and this is the thanks I get?” and “Please enjoy my last real R&B album “Stronger” cause you’ll never get another one!”
And unfortunately, for listeners like me, that last statement has proven to be true. 2016’s ‘Sex, Love, and Pain II’ regressed back to his old formula of sparks of brilliance mixed with an assumption of what’s hot in the marketplace and attempts to cater to that, and 2017’s ‘Savage’ just feels like a desperate attempt at grasping relevance with an audience that Tank shouldn’t even be targeting.
The first single is an overt and tasteless single about sexual encounters that become aggressive. Complete with the light-skinned video vixen in a one piece bathing suit and fishnets underneath putting her behind in the air (before we ever see her face), the first thing I yelled when watching the video was, “OH MY GOSH, GROW UP!” The pre-chorus and hook to the song are both ridiculous:
Who came to make sweet love? Not me
Who came to kiss and hug? Not me
Who came to beat it up? Rocky
And Imma use those hands to put up that gate and stop me
When we f**k
When we f**k
When we f**k
When we f**k
The album is riddled with songs like this, and includes features from the R&B and Hip-Hop artists who have leaned on sexual songwriting to bolster their careers, such as Trey Songz and Ludacris (who are both featured on the same song). And if the goal was simply to put out what’s hot in an endeavor to sell records, then Tank has traded in his evolution for a goal that hasn’t even come to pass. According to the site Fresh!, first week albums sales for ‘Savage’ stalled just above 13k and are struggling to hit 9k this week. The ‘Stronger’ album may not have gone platinum, but it did sell about double that amount.
You may say that from a business perspective ‘Savage’ sold that amount with Tank as an independent artist, while ‘Stronger’ floundered in sales even with the backing of a label, but I would submit that even according to Tank, the label didn’t do much to push ‘Stronger,’ and he is losing his core fanbase (GROWN PEOPLE) with this nonsense. TGT, a group with Tank, Ginuwine, and Tyrese which received the most acclaim of Tank’s career including Grammy nods, used a similar formula to ‘Stronger’ insofar as content and was very successful. So, even if we’re looking at this from a business perspective, Tank is most successful when he acts his age.
Ultimately, the most frustrating thing about the ‘Savage’ album is that Tank can sing, the melodies and harmonies are beautiful and enticing, the production is crisp and sonically alluring, but the songwriting and overall content direction are beneath him, and frankly, beneath me as well.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TANK’S NEW ALBUM? DO YOU LIKE HIS CURRENT DIRECTION? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!