Grammy-Award winning pop icon Peabo Bryson is the quintessential master of passion, with his romantic songs and gifted vocal range leaving behind 40 years of timeless music. Considered one of the greatest vocalists in music, Bryson, 67, contributed to decades of hit singles such as “Feel The Fire,” “I’m So Into You,” “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again,” and “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love” with Roberta Flack. In the 1990s, his career reached new acclaim with “A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme)” with Regina Belle, and “Beauty & The Beast” with pop icon Celine Dion – which became Disney’s two most successful singles, and earned Bryson a pair of Grammy Awards.
Bryson’s anticipated 21st studio album, Stand For Love will be released August 3 – 11 years since his previous record, Missing You. He has joined forces with Grammy Award-winning production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and producer/musician John Jackson which he called a “magical coming together.”
“Peabo is just one of the greatest voices of our time,” Jam and Lewis said in a joint statement. “He exudes a class and sophistication that’s so needed in music today. I know R&B needs Peabo Bryson especially now. And his fans both old and new will fall in love with Stand For Love.”
“They stay true to the music,” Bryson says working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the legendary producers who have shaped the music of artists such as Janet Jackson, Chaka Kahan, New Edition, George Michael, and Michael Jackson. “We agreed on truth and truth has carried us throughout this entire project and I think in many ways responsible for some of the success we’re receiving at this particular point in terms with how people embrace it.”
The new album’s first single “Love Like Yours And Mine” has been positively received since its springtime release, becoming the fastest rising single on the Urban AC chart and recently breaking the top 10. His second single, “All She Wants To Do Is Me,” premiered on an episode of The Chi.
VIBE talked to Bryson and Jam about the forthcoming album, their thoughts on the current state of R&B and romancing women in music.
VIBE: How did you go about staying current yet maintain the iconic sound?
Bryson: That was my challenge to them. We challenged each other. It was, “Can you make me current without destroying what has taken me a lifetime to accomplish? Can you do that?” It’s not more than two people on the planet I would trust with that particular task. That’s not something you’d want to play around with at this stage of your life or your career. Fortunately, they wanted me to be as involved as I can possibly be. They will play you track after track, they’ll ask you if you feel anything. “Do you hear anything?” They will make you hum it, then they’ll help you write it. You’re so involved, you’re so personally invested. It’s an extraordinary kind of thing.
Jam: Great music is timeless! So, you talk about current and not current. The thing that’s interesting to me is a lot of current music is sampled from great music. Those are the kind of records that Hip Hop is sampling. I was talking to Questlove about it the other day. I played Questlove one of the tracks and he said, “Man, that’s like the most down record that I’ve heard from a 70-year-old.” I’m like, “He ain’t 70, Quest,” but I get what you’re saying.
Bryson: I’m mad at that! (laughs)
Jam: He’s saying, “Man, that sounds like something I’d go sample right now.” That could’ve been a 1970s record very easily.
What was the overall direction in creating Stand For Love?
Jam: For me, from the production end of it we were just trying to do something that was indicative of Peabo’s really great work that he has done through his whole career. I mean in studying his career you had classic R&B records from “I’m So Into You” to “Feel The Fire,” those types of records that I grew up listening and loving. So much to pull from as far as just inspiration. At the end of the day, we thought the thing everything had in common was love and it wasn’t just about love between lovers but it was also about love for people. At this time with where we are in the world, it’s a great time to talk about love and who better to do that than Peabo?
What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B and what significance will this album have?
Jam: I think R&B is alive and well and I think this album is one of the albums that’s going to prove that, but I think there’s a lot of great young artists out there making really good music and I think there’s room for everything. I’m very encouraged by people like Daniel Caesar, who’s one of my favorites, certainly H.E.R. and SZA. Quality fits when you talk about soul music. Music that reaches the soul. That’s what I think those [artists] have, that’s what Peabo has and I think they can coexist together and to me, it just widens what perception of R&B music is.
Bryson: We’re telling the same story with a new pace, with a current pace so that we’re passing it from generation to generation. That’s the goal of what this is and the essence of what this is. This project and album is music fellowship in every way. That’s what music is. It’s there to soothe the soul and to remind you that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re going through.
You come from an era of R&B that embraced love songs. What inspires honoring women in your music?
Jam: Peabo comes from a place where he’s lived so much life and now he can share his experiences and teach these younger folks what’s up. What’s up about loving, about respecting, and how to treat a woman?
Bryson: It’s my honor. Somebody asked me, “Why do you like Sade so much?” (One of the album’s songs is called, “Looking For Sade.”) I like Sade like I like Janet Jackson. I like Sade like I like Roberta Flack. You know why I like these women? Cause they represent what is mysterious, sultry, sexy, and appealing that is in every woman. It’s our honoring our pleasure to remind women of who they are and what they are. What I know or Jimmy and Terry know anything about love is go to do with what we learned from the women who raised us. I mean, they had a standard of love – that’s what we’re standing for today.
Do you think women are thirsting for that in music today?
Bryson: I can’t tell you how many young women feel so disenfranchised because they don’t have the luxury of having the same kind of relationships that we had. I can tell you this right here, every young woman I’ve spoken with all are searching for the same thing. Searching for that kind of relationship and this crosses all color barriers. They all tell the same story, all depressed about it not being available to them ‘cause they see it in their parents. When young people today kind of want the same relationships their parents have, when they start to lust after that we’ve got a problem Houston! Stand For Love is available for pre-order.