Our foremost artists, athletes, and leaders all share one trait in common: confidence.
It’s the elusive and amorphous secret sauce that intoxicates as it inspires. For as indefinable and indescribable as it may seem, you always know it when you see it. It also precedes self-actualization. On his second full-length for Mind of A Genius/Warner Bros. Records and follow-up to 2016’s Ology, genre-bending GRAMMY® Award-nominated R&B iconoclast Gallant harnesses this spirit. His seismic falsetto wails like never before, his storytelling unfurls without filter, and he smashes archaic archetypes at every turn.
“When I started writing, I knew I wanted my new music to be bold,” he affirms. “On my last album, I focused on vulnerability and honesty a lot. Those are character traits of who I am. I can’t help but be honest. I decided to see what a ‘confident’ version of me who innately carries those other characteristics would feel like. I aimed to show wonderful it is to be vulnerable and comfortable as an African-American male. This is what came out.”
Truth be told, Gallant had every reason to be confident. Ology quietly established him as a preeminent 21st century voice. Not only did it receive a GRAMMY® nomination for “Best Urban Contemporary Album,” but it also debuted in the Top 25 of the Billboard Top 200. Entertainment Weekly ranked it among the “25 Best Albums of 2016 (So Far),” Pitchfork rated it 7.5/10, and The Guardian scored it 4/5. Additionally, he claimed a spot on Forbes “30 Under 30” as further acclaim came from The Fader, Complex, and more. Seal joined him during a much talked-about Coachella debut (which Billboard touted as “#1 moment of Coachella), and he serenaded the Obama family at The White House alongside another avowed fan, Elton John.
Between supporting John Legend on tour, he captivated international audiences on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with James Corden, Late Night with Seth Meyers, CBS Saturday, and Later… with Jools Holland, to name a few. Simultaneously, the standout single “Weight In Gold” generated 33 million-plus Spotify streams.
Emboldened by experience, the artist embraced some of his most formative influences. He studied late nineties and early two-thousands R&B and hip-hop, revisiting Somethin’ For The People’s self-titled debut, Tyrese’s eponymous first offering, Brandy’s Never Say Never, and Ray J’s out-of-print This Ain’t A Game—which he hunted down in CD form on Amazon. Reteaming with Ology collaborator Stint, he seamlessly incorporated those inspirations into his world.
“This is my spin on a sound close to me,” he goes on. “I started to get afraid to put this shit out. That’s how I knew I should keep going. I’m laying things down in an anecdotal way. I’m telling stories about my life, my experiences, and my relationships.”
“Gentleman” introduces this phase. Over a spacious beat loop, his vocal delivery simply simmers. Rather than tinker or overthink, he sings directly from the soul, fanning a raw and real flame.
“It was like an ink blot test of what would happen if I just put down my thoughts instead of spending months picking everything apart,” he admits. “As far as the lyrics go, I’m in a relationship, but I didn’t necessarily understand what she saw in me. I’m a nerd! So, ‘Gentleman’ is my personal expression of a nineties bedroom jam. I think sexiness comes off in a very specific way. I value being a gentleman, no pun intended. I value being straightforward. This is what I would say to the one I love.”
“Doesn’t Matter” tempers a chopped-up siren and synth sound with another show-stopping vocal performance.
“It mixes a bunch of different experiences,” he goes on. “It’s how what happened in college can mirror what I’m going through now as an adult. I’ve been getting back to the original things that help me grow as a person. Weaving all of that together, I’m telling a very specific story.”
In the end, that story is about to get really interesting for Gallant.