Keith Sweat Headlines Paramount Soul Show
By Kwan Booth
The years have been good to Keith Sweat. Since hitting the ground running with a chart topping single 20 years ago, he’s had a series of hits as a solo artist, producer and collaborator and has managed to keep his passion while others from the era have faded into pop music history.
In conversation it’s clear the smooth crooner has mellowed even more over the years, while perfecting the style of upbeat, “New Jack Swing” R&B that made him famous. When fans see him this Friday at the for the “Ladies Night Out Tour” alongside Bell, Biv, Devoe and Tony! Toni! Tone!, the singer says they can expect a show dripping with vintage Sweat.
“You hear other artists out here who make the mistake of trying to be trendy. They really try to keep up. I know people want to hear Keith Sweat. I’m conscious of the people who have followed me the whole time, since day one.”
It’s those listeners he’s caters to on the new album, Just Me, due in early May from Atco/Rhino Records. The album is his first studio effort since 2002′s Rebirth and finds the singer mining the same slow jamming, candle lit, baby making territory first explored on 1988′s Make it Last Forever.
“I’ve always written songs that mean something to you” Sweat says, explaining his longevity. “I’ve been able to stay in the game so long because people grew up listening to my music. They’ve gone with me through the stages.”
And just like songs like Forever, I Want Her, Nobody and Something Ain’t Right provided the soundtrack to a generation of newlyweds and lovers, Sweat says he believes the new album, which features work from fellow New Jack Swing pioneer Teddy Riley, longtime collaborator Athena Cage and new school singers Keyshia Cole and Akon, will strike the same chord.
“It’s music of substance,” he says about his new work. “You’re going to hear it 10 years from now, 20 years from now.” And with two decades of recordings already under his belt, it seems like the singer knows a thing or two about how to stay relevant.
Sweat says that one key to his success is that he’s been able to follow his passions over the years-from singing to songwriting to production-without much pressure to follow the trends of the industry. Through careful business planning (the singer worked on Wall Street before his first album) he’s been able to keep control over his recording schedule and says this has allowed him to only work when he wants to, and only on projects he feels passionate about.
“I’ve had the control (of my career) from day one and you get that control and you get to do what you want. I’ve had the luxury of producing and recording. When I wasn’t doing the artist thing I was producing, when I wasn’t producing I was writing songs, when I wasn’t doing that I was on the radio” he says, touching on his latest project. “For me it’s like I’ve got feel what I’m doing and I just take it the way I feel.”
Lately he’s been feeling the radio-particularly “The Sweat Hotel”-a syndicated late night radio show he’s been hosting from Atlanta for just over a year. The show features current and classic slow jams while listeners call in for advice and to leave messages for their significant others. Sweat says he likes the show because it provides another networking avenue and a chance to “really get to know my listeners.”
He’ll get a chance to really see those listeners on Friday night. And they’ll get a trip down memory lane and a earful of the sounds they’ve come to love over the years.
Keith Sweat performs at the Paramount Theater this Friday for the “Ladies Night Out Tour” with Bell, Biv, Devoe and Tony! Toni! Tone!. For more information go to www.paramounttheatre.com