Brian McKnight…BETTER Than Ever
Totally smitten and head over heels in love, is how you can find soulful R&B singer Brian McKnight these days. He’s not afraid to admit it and in fact; he relishes in it on his newest studio album, Better. During our interview, he confesses it’s the first time he’s ever truly felt this way, and you can hear it- no doubt about it. Sounds a little strange coming from an artist, who has been known through the years, for penning some of the best R&B ballads of all time- doesn’t it? Many of his songs have been the soundtrack for love, for so many and for so long. In fact, I made sure to let him know that one of my favorite’s “Still In Love,” will be used at my wedding one of these days! However, he says that “Still In Love” wasn’t written with a face in mind, like this entire new project was. But, whether it’s riding home on a first date and trying to set the mood, walking down the aisle or trying to mend your heart after a bad break up- McKnight’s music has been there.
Now, that he’s really in love, he is singing it out on his newly released album, Better which was released on February 26th. Better is his 13th studio released project, with 12 tracks that literally take us in chronological order of how he fell in love, with his current girlfriend of the last 3 years. From the first single “Strut,” when he notices her walking into the room for the first time, to “Can’t Take It” when they first become intimate, to the title track “Better” when he admits this is the love he’s been waiting for all his life, McKnight paints the picture of what falling hard really looks like. Musically, he took it back to the basics on this one. Better was made in just 3 days with no computers, no auto-tune or “extra-ness”…just the keyboard, the drums, and his timeless voice over great music. For all true Brian McKnight fans, you won’t be disappointed, as this is classic Brian from the moment you press play.
Since his first self-titled album in 1992, Brian McKnight has been nominated for 16 Grammys, sold over 25 million albums, won several awards and gone platinum 2 and 3 times over. He has had the type of success in the music industry that many wish they could see today and he still tours year round- even over 20 years later. His success may be due to the fact that his fans cover the spectrum of every age, every color, every hue, and every economic status. Oh, that and the fact that he has real musical talent (knowing how to play at least 9 instruments) and never compromises on the sound of his music or his performance.
More than anything right now, he sounds happy, settled and has had a chance to make some observations in the industry over the years and where music is right now. Here’s a little of what Brian and I discussed during our conversation.
Shani of 24 FLIX: When it comes to artists making true love songs these days, why do you believe the essence of real love, is missing in music, over all?
BRIAN MCKNIGHT: “We’re not asking the right questions. It’s missing, because it’s missing in all of our lives. Music definitely is a mirror to what’s happening in society, and probably always will be. With the advent of social media, in the new generation… I truly believe that grownups now feel like; if I give too much of myself, not only am I going to be hurt, but the entire world is going to know that I am, because it’ll be broadcast across the globe on the internet. So they would rather talk about things that are frivolous, because most people’s lives are frivolous. The reason why the 90’s were so great is because, people still put their feelings out there; because they were still feeling. They didn’t really have anything else to go on and I think that’s what we’ve lost in the last 20 years.”
Shani of 24 FLIX: Do you think though, with so many artists starting to sample music from the 90’s, that people realize that- that essence in music is missing or they are looking for a different era in music that they can really appreciate? Do you think there is a resurgence of that, on the horizon?
BRIAN MCKNIGHT: “Uhhh…No [with a slight laugh]… I mean, I hope that’s the case. Honestly, I’m not saying that for artist like myself who are in their 40’s, and have had their hay days. The problem is, there is a 17 year old kid out there who has learned to sing, and can really really sing. But what the [music] industry is telling them out there is, ‘You know what, we’re only going for the most mediocre thing that you possibly can bring.’ And what they’re forced to do, is be less. I keep hearing this idea that you can’t over shoot the target. You can’t do more, you can only do less…With the amount of artist that come out, and 200,000 records a year, how can anything be great?
That’s also why Adele comes out, and does so well, because it’s still real. What I don’t understand is why, the powers that be, aren’t looking for more of that. Why there’s only one! Every year! Last year it was Taylor Smith, this year it’s Adele, and next year it’ll be only one. Like one; period. “
Shani of 24 FLIX: I think for people out there who love real music…people who can really sing, people who can play instruments, people who can really put together a concept for a song and not just find a catchy hook; there are people out there who are missing that. So in your opinion, what do you think is the future of- not just R&B- but the future of music when it comes to that? Why is that something that is so hard, for people to want to allow back into the industry?
BRIAN MCKNIGHT: “Now, I’m gonna say something very controversial [he says with some urgency and yet slight hesitation]. But, I’ve been saying it for a while, because I’ve been watching it happen. Until, the powers that be, let Black artists be artists again- in the mainstream- this is what we’re going to get. It’s almost like, when they decided one day that…all we have to do to get White artists to rule the airwaves again, is to combine the Hip Hop and R&B Charts. ‘Cause if we do that, all the young Black artists will want to be hip-hop, because that’s what’s in- then we can control the popular music charts again. And that’s respectively what’s happened…and now we see where the soul has just been torn out of all the mainstream music. And I think it’s funny, ’cause I’ve watched it happen. Watch every awards show…watch what happens…watch how it goes down. It’s like, wow…it’s crazy! And the crazier part about it is, our kids our artists that are young have actually bought into it. They’d rather be thugs, because they don’t have an outlet. They don’t have a way to be on those charts. They don’t have a way to get a real shake at having that kind of mainstream success, because the only way is to get on the hip-hop charts.”
Brian says he respects an artist like Justin Bieber who he believes is talented, and shows it with his ability to sell out the Staple Center, but he also believes that he has no real competition in the musical genre right now. In order for other artists to have that type of success he says that “Ultimately, the industry has to allow it and those [R&B/Soul] artists have to do the music.” McKnight says, unfortunately it’s a catch 22. Many of these young singers don’t see an example of someone that looks like them, who is ultimately getting that type of success and opportunity these days, without that hip-hop element in their music.
There is no doubt that Brian McKnight not only has navigated some of the industry pit-falls, but wants to see other young artists have the chance to experience the success he has had, in this day and age. But when it comes to his future, McKnight says, “I’m still here. When I wake up every day and people are still paying to come and see us play, there’s nothing really better than that. He later continues, “I don’t know what’s next…or what can happen in two years. But during those two years, I live and I work…then I look back and I say, Wow!” Spoken like a man who knows that it can only get better with time.