Anthony Hamilton’s voice just keeps getting better with time.
The Grammy Award winner’s arresting voice—a favorite staple on the scene since 2003—recently provided the perfect accompaniment to Jill Scott’s earthy vocals on the captivating duet “So in Love.” Their dynamic pairing also set a record: 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Urban Adult Contemporary chart, tying with Maxwell for the most consecutive weeks atop the tally. The single, in turn, helped propel Scott’s album, The Light of the Sun, to a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
Now on the heels of that smash hit, Hamilton is igniting even more buzz. It’s for his new single “Pray For Me,” recently the No. 1 most added single at urban adult radio. The soul-stirring, Babyface-produced track is the second single from his fourth studio album, Back to Love. The December 13 release is the follow-up to his 2008 gold-certified, No. 1-debuting album, The Point of It All (So So Def/Zomba Label Group). The release marks his first album for the newly restructured RCA Records—and signals the eagerly anticipated next chapter in the multi-talented singer/songwriter’s evolving career.
“Having children,” says the father of five, including year-old twins, “gives you another burst of energy, a new perspective. Back to Love stems from that energy.”
That energy pulsates throughout Hamilton’s first single “Woo,” a feel-good, up-tempo ode to a woman whose sexiness stops men in their tracks. Also produced by Babyface, “Woo is just another way of saying ‘Good God almighty or Lord have mercy,” says Hamilton with a laugh. “You’re minding your business, and lo and behold a woo walks by who messes up your whole focus.”
Hamilton’s focus for Back to Love, however, was definitely clear: crafting a broader, more energetic sound without compromising his soul-drenched vocals, engaging melodies and lyrical imagery. Aiding him on that mission was his longtime producer and “So in Love” collaborator Kelvin Wooten, Salaam Remi, Jerry Wonda and, for the first time, industry legend Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
“Some people write songs to be hits,” says Hamilton, a skillful songwriter in his own right. “Some people write songs because they love it … and that brings a different feeling to the music. I was looking for the latter. That’s why working on this album was so liberating.”
Among the Hamilton-described “firecrackers and life-reflecting songs” comprising Back to Love are the OutKast-influenced “Sucka For You” and “Best of Me” – both invigorating examples of the singer’s rejuvenation. His reflective nature is embraced on “Never Let Go,” a duet with singer/songwriter Keri Hilson and “Life Has a Way,” originally written for the movie “Pursuit of Happyness.” While on “Pray for Me,”, the emotional lyrics about a lost love (“Dear God/If you’re listening now/I need you to do a thing for me … I need you to bring her back to me”) and gospel-influenced melody are signature Hamilton.
Overall, Back to Love showcases Hamilton’s distinctive, multi-faceted voice. “There are different tones in my voice that people have fallen in love with; I can go hard or real soft,” says the singer. “I pay attention to that.”
Fans began paying attention to Hamilton in 2002, when he sang the infectious hook on the Nappy Roots’ “Po’ Folks.” That performance netted the singer the first of 10 Grammy nominations for best rap/sung collaboration—and a new label, Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def imprint.
After signing with So So Def, Hamilton scored a platinum debut with Coming From Where I’m From in 2003, featuring the chart-topping hit “Charlene.” Two years later, he returned with gold-certified sophomore set Ain’t Nobody Worryin’, which spun off the No. 1 hit “Can’t Let Go.” Then in 2008 came The Point of It All, which elicited USA Today’s declaration that Hamilton is “one of the genre’s rare singers.” Hamilton won his first Grammy Award in 2009 for his collaboration on Al Green’s “You Got the Love I Need.”
Singing in church since he was 10 years old, Hamilton’s natural talent— rich, soul-steeped vocals breathing sonorous life into emotion-packed lyrics—has earned him a reputation as an “artist’s artist.” He counts guest stints on a diverse roster of projects from Dr. Dre and Young Jeezy to Keyshia Cole, Josh Turner, Santana and John Rich (Big & Rich). Between his own album sales and collaborations, Hamilton has sold more than 19.6 million albums.
The Charlotte, NC native’s resume also includes performing a virtual duet of “Buon Natale” alongside Nat King Cole for The Nat King Cole Holiday Collection and a cameo appearance in the Oscar-nominated film “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington in 2007. Hamilton also performed the soundtrack’s lead song, the Diane Warren-penned “Do You Feel Me,” while his songs “Struggle No More” and “Can’t Let Go” appeared on the “Daddy’s Little Girls” soundtrack.
In addition to giving back through music, Hamilton participates in various national and local outreach initiatives. He currently serves as the national spokesperson for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the growing number of African-American children in the foster care system and recruiting volunteers to advocate for foster children. An adoptee himself, Hamilton notes, “What you make happen for somebody else, God will make happen for you.
The consummate performer, Hamilton recently completed a sold-out European tour, which included stops in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Sweden, among others. His national headlining tour is expected early fall 2012. Hamilton says the immense reception to “So in Love”—and now “Pray For Me”—shows that “R&B is about to be the new mainstream. Real music is coming back.”
And who better to deliver that message than Anthony Hamilton?