el debarge’s second wind
In the face of personal turmoil and a changed musical landscape, 1980s R&B singer El DeBarge releases his comeback album of feel-good tunes, Second Chance.
THERE probably isn’t a better title for R&B singer El DeBarge’s new project than Second Chance.
DeBarge served as the primary voice in the family group DeBarge, which presided over R&B radio in the 1980s with songs such as I Like It, All This Love, Time Will Reveal and Rhythm of the Night. He pursued a solo career after he left the group.
But it has been eons since his last CD, Heart, Mind and Soul in 1994. All fans have heard about him since then was news about his struggles and legal bust-ups, including time served for drug possession in 2008 and his long-running substanceabuse problems.
But an out of nowhere, career-rejuvenating appearance on this year’s BET Awards showed that fans are still clamouring for him.
“I was nervous about whether people would like me, whether I was going to win or lose right there on that stage,” says DeBarge, who performed his single, Second Chance, and more on the telecast.
“I just didn’t know, but I was ready to do it. I opened my mouth and hit the first note, and they were ready to receive it. I went with it and used that energy for strength. I’m glad everybody is embracing me. It would be a terrible thing to come back and nobody wanted you to come back. I feel the love and attribute it to the fact people want to feel good again.”
There was a time when DeBarge wasn’t feeling so good himself, and coming back was one of the furthest things on his mind. That was when he was on drugs, which for him was an up-and-down thing for more than two decades.
“I didn’t know if I would come back. My head wasn’t clear when I was on drugs. I just wanted to live,” says DeBarge, who knew he was going down the wrong path from the day he took his first hit.
“My first words were, ‘Uh huh, I shouldn’t have done this.’ But it got progressively worse, hit after hit after hit. Did I know I would take 22 years to get off of it? I had no idea. I’d been on and off and on and off, and I’m here today by the grace of God.”
DeBarge has been off of drugs for nearly two years and says he’ll be sober for the rest of his life.
His new CD, which he recorded in April with producers including Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Mike City, Babyface and Polow Da Don, is all about feel-good music, harmonies, soul and lots of joy, DeBarge says.
“It’s the El DeBarge sound you’ve come to know,” he says. “I’m just trying to be who I am, not anybody else. People like to feel good. When you’re doing music, you want to stay in touch with what makes people dance, what makes people laugh, what makes them feel joyful, and sometimes what makes them cry.”
He teams up with rapper 50 Cent on Switch Up The Format, rapper Fabolous on 5 Seconds and singer Faith Evans on I Just Wanna Lay With You.
“I’m a fan of Faith’s, and she’s a fan of mine,” DeBarge says. “It’s not often you can bring celebrities together and they set their egos aside and just be friends and embrace each other, and we did that very comfortably. And that shows up in the song. You can feel it.”
Though teaming with Evans isn’t a stretch, collaborating with the likes of 50 Cent and Fabolous looks as if DeBarge is stepping outside of his lane.
“What I didn’t want to do was just say I want a rapper on my album,” he says. “It has to be, ‘Will it fit?’ With 50 Cent and Fabolous, when people hear the collaborations, they’ll understand why we did it and why it works and why it fits.”
The centerpiece of the CD is obviously the title track, which DeBarge says is not only his story but that of many: triumph in overcoming obstacles.
“People are looking for second chances, and everybody deserves a second chance,” he says. “This is my second chance, and I’m embracing it.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch/ McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Rejuvenated: ‘I’m glad everybody is embracing me. It would be a terrible thing to come back and nobody wanted you to come back,’ says El DeBarge.