Interview: Donell Jones – The Best Album So Far

By: Melody Charles

If you’ve listened to mainstream R&B lately, grimaced and thought to yourself, “What happened to the romance? Where is the love?” you’re not alone. For all of the super-producers and megastars in the game, few of them seem to be proficient at creating a true love song…or at least, creating a mood. So, with his return to the music game this summer, Donnell Jones is intent on changing all that.

“I don’t wanna be responsible for kicking in any child support,” he says with a laugh during a recent conversation with Knowshi, “but this the population is about to grow for real. I’m bringing the sexy, the love, everything back.”

Mr. Jones, 37, pretty much made himself synonymous with smooth, sensual R&B starting back in the 90’s, famous for inescapable hits like “Where I Wanna Be,” “U Know What’s Up” and that sublime Stevie Wonder remake, “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Spending time out of the spotlight for the last few years has enabled him to walk away from his long-time label and create a new CD, as yet untitled, independently. Thanks to his experience with his prior one, he prefers to go it alone this time, thank you very much.

“I was signed to a subsidiary of LaFace, along with TLC, Toni Braxton and a bunch of other artists,” he says of the early days, “so it was like I was a stepchild. Then, when LaFace folded and I went to Jive, there were even more artists there, so it was even worse. They only get a certain amount of marketing dollars, so by the time my music came out, they had already spent it all. Throughout my whole career, I’d felt like that. Once it started selling, they shut the marketing down. So, I’ve decided to go independent from now on, because nobody can promote me like I can promote me.”

So, while a collection of his unreleased tracks from those turbulent years, The Lost Files, hit the shelves (“I thought it would be a good bridge just to get the fans back familiar with me b/c I’d been off the scene for a minute.”), Mr. Jones has been creating, in his words, the most important music of his entire career.

“This album right here, is, to me, is the best album so far. I know a lot of artists say that, but I really feel that way. This is one of the one you can play from beginning to end. I haven’t been just sitting around doing nothing, I’ve been working and perfecting my craft, and I think people are going to hear that.”

And, judging the enthusiastic reaction he got from the audience of The Mo’Nique Show a few weeks back when he debuted with its first single, “Love Like This,” he could be right. “That song is about a woman who’s been hurt by love and I’m trying to get her to change her mind, you know….to give us a chance. ‘Give me an opportunity to open up your heart again. I used to be the same dude that you were scared of, but I’ve grown, we can do this.’”

Is there going to be a Lil Wayne cameo, some auto-tune or any other trendy fringes? Please. “My style of R&B, I think it’s timeless. I came up with Teddy Pendergrass, the Isley Brothers, and what I’ve noticed is that a lot of the idols never changed their styles, they changed up some of the elements, but basically kept it the same. So if ain’t broke, why fix it? That’s not what the fans want to hear.”

So, just be patient R&B lovers: when the music drops this summer and Donell Jones’ devotees get an earful of him from the airwaves or on stage, they will most certainly feel the love. “I’m a flirt, so the ladies need to watch out,” he laughs.  “But most of all, it’s about a message in the music, I think that’s what we’re lacking these days. I don’t knock what other artists do, but I would hope that people are ready for the love this time. My fans are gonna say ‘wow, this is what I’ve been waiting for.’”

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My Heart

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