US singer Maxwell released a teaser at midnight, New York time for his upcoming record Summers’.
It is the second part of his trilogy BlackSUMMERS’night; and Maxwell’s cryptic clues to the record online, has kept his fans gripped in the anticipation of an artist who has consistently released great music.
On his Facebook biography; Summers’ is said to lean towards a gospel sound, and in more recent interviews Maxwell has described the album as a hybrid of music. He cited some artists he enjoys such as the xx and Fleet Foxes, and suggested a subtle influence of indie rock and alt-rhythm and blues might creep onto the record.
Maxwell always surprises; in 2008, he came on stage for his first televised performance in seven years at the BET Awards – to pay tribute to Al Green – and to prepare audiences for a new album.
Black was released in 2009. He recorded the album with a live band and archaic microphones to give the record more character, and hearing his magnificent falsetto and tenor voice on tracks such as “Bad Habits” and “Love You” made some of my favourite music moments.
In the wait for Summers’, fans were elated with Maxwell’s surprise appearance on the smoky ballad “Fire We Make”, a duet with Alicia Keys on her current Girl on Fire album. Their voices, together, accompanied by synth bass and quiet horns is the kind of material that soul fans dream of.
It makes the prospect of a collaboration with Marsha Ambrosius on Summers’ even more exciting, which came about from a hint Maxwell tweeted.
What’s interesting about Maxwell’s Twitter, is that he has assured his artistic integrity. He doesn’t pander to his listeners or give in to them, instead he challenges them.
The music industry is ever changing and while some artists have to release albums to support their tours, Maxwell, thankfully, is in a position where he can create the timeless album that he wants to.
It’s a work ethic which reminds me of Michael Jackson’s; he cared about every chord change, every sound and always wanted to do something different and recorded hundreds of songs for each album. Not to say you can’t be prolific – Prince is evidence of that, but that’s two ends of the spectrum of genius.
With the release of Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite in 1996, wheels were set in motion for him. He was claimed as a “saviour of soul”, “the new Marvin Gaye” and “the king of neo-soul”, as the critics tried to put Maxwell – the commodity in his box.
Maxwell told Vibe Magazine’s Selwyn Seyfu Hinds around the release of Now in 2001 about the pressures of competing against his highly acclaimed debut record:
“You know sometimes when you want to do your own thing and people just kind of want you to fit within their world…it’s a revelation. So I learned about a lot, about just perseverance and pure faith. And about humility”.
Embrya, released in 1998; its enigmatic sound and interesting lyrics actually makes it a fan favourite.
Plus his audience had already come to realise that Maxwell had more depth to him. The year following Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite’s release, he would perform on MTV Unplugged and cover “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush and “Closer” by the Nine Inch Nails. People realised he wasn’t a single-minded Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye fan.
Like Erykah Badu surprised critics on her second album (for sampling Dr. Dre) when her first album had her acclaimed as the neo-soul Billie Holiday; Maxwell was making the music he needed to. It’s not a new thing or just confined to the soul genre. Janet Jackson went against advice from her record company to release Control part II and unleash Rhythm Nation 1814.
I like those kinds of artists, they don’t’ compromise their art or just fall into line. Maxwell, Badu and Jackson have all spoken about growth – personal, spiritual and artistic when asked on their follow up albums.
Which is why I enjoy listening to Maxwell, I know he’ll always surprise and challenge me as a listener and I too can grow.
Follow Maxwell on Twitter: @_maxwell_