DeepSoul: Tank - "You're My Star"

This 2014 single demonstrates how old school R&B and modern hip hop can be merged to create timeless music.
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Long a valuable behind-the-scenes player, Tank has penned and produced hits for top R&B artists such as Dave Hollister, Charlie Wilson, Jamie Foxx, and Kelly Rowland.  His underrated solo material, however, has received comparatively less attention.  A fusion of classic R&B and hip hop, Tank's work further impresses with his malleable voice and catchy hooks.  These elements are on full display on the 2014 single "You're My Star," a standout from the album Stronger.  

Born Durrell Babbs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before later moving to Clinton, Maryland, Tank honed his singing skills in the church choir.  He got his start as a backing singer, working with Ginuwine before earning his big break through R&B crooner Dave Hollister.  Tank penned several tracks for Hollister's hit album Chicago '85...The Movie, finally landing him his own recording contract.  His 2001 debut, Force of Nature, spawned two singles and rose to the top ten of the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.  Although he occasionally released further studio albums, Tank continued working behind the scenes as a writer, producer, and musician for Aaliyah, Brian McKnight, Chris Brown, and Donnell Jones.  He achieved even more success forming a supergroup with Ginuwine and Tyrese called Three Kings, but finally returned to solo work with Stronger.  While his work with various artists deserves acclaim, Tank's own work draws on his strength: merging contemporary hip hop with old school soul.

"You're My Star," the lead single off Stronger, perfectly marries the old and new.  Built on the bassline from the Jacksons' "This Place Hotel," the song could have been recorded by Michael Jackson due to its heavy rhythmic elements.  "As a musician, it's just one of those basslines that you have to know," Tank told Ebony in 2014.  "I'm playing this bassline, and I'm like, 'Oooooh, this could be something.' If I used Michael Jackson, it's a nostalgic moment [but] at the same time [could be] something current."  Lyrically, the song celebrates women in general, something that Tank felt counteracted too frequent negative images.  "It was just [written] for all women period. I get so irritated with women being called b*tches and hoes on songs, and those songs climbing to number one," he said.  "You need something degrading and defiling to gain listeners. We gotta change that. For all the records that are calling [women] out of [their] name, this record is going to mention who you really are: you're a star, [and] you're appreciated."

Horns punctuate the song as Tank smoothly praises his lover.  "This is dedicated to my star / I'm so infatuated with who you are," he sings in a higher range, conjuring images of Jackson.  He proclaims she's got "curves like the moon / But you're hotter than the sun" as the beat becomes stronger.  During the bridge, Tank heaps on even more praise, expanding upon the star metaphor: "Girl of my dreams / Fell from the sky now she hangs with me / Can't believe my eyes and what they see / Got the brightest star in the galaxy," Tank virtually chants.  The production sounds thoroughly modern, as "You're My Star" sports a thumping beat.  Yet the horns, classic bassline, backing singers, and Tank's understated but effective vocal recall the heyday of 1970s soul.  

Stronger did not fare well on the charts, and "You're My Star" inexplicably failed to become a hit.  Yet its old school vibes render the track timeless, and demonstrate how classic R&B and hip hop can peacefully coexist.