[1 July 2012]
Tank’s the sort of R&B artist that exists mostly in memories these days, all husky tenor and shirt-lacking cover art, but This Is How I Feel sees all his time writing and producing for artists like Chris Brown, Plies and Omarion apparently sapping most of his more human characteristics in favor of typical modern R&B boisterousness. Even when his sound reaches back to his origins at Blackground, like “Your One” or “Better Than Me”, the results feel tepid and unengaging. The arrangements are defiantly spare, meant to put Tank’s always pleasant vocal work on display but really only serving to highlight disappointing lyrical ideas like his friends call him Dollar Bill, so the girl he’s addressing can refer to him as “[her] one”. Despite being 36 years old, Tank spends most of this album writing like a spoiled teenager.
“Compliments”, the album’s single featuring T.I., is pretty indicative of all the things that don’t really work about This Is How I Feel, which is a little awkward since in many ways it’s also the best thing here. It’s a song that feels alright on the surface, with a spacey little sci-fi beat that would feel pleasant to drive around to at night or wind down to at a club, and its chorus is catchy enough. But the song has this soullessness to it, this way of feeling like the sort of uncharming banter that occurs on a show like the Real Housewives series. T.I. drives that point home with a meandering verse that essentially mentions every possible physical and fashionable feature of a woman at a club, even going so far as to imply fancy pocketbooks are a turn on. The verse is essentially a cousin to his feature on Drake’s “Fancy”, except it’s not fun at all.
In fact, the rapping here consistently represents brick walls for Tank to try his best to overcome. Chris Brown features on the album-opening “Lonely” and after a brief vocal deigns rapping like Meek Mill instead to be more satisfying. Funnily enough, the two were recently involved in a highly publicized late night brawl, and Chris Brown attempting to sound believable through Meek Mill’s hyper intense delivery style about being “Lonely” without his old girl works out about as well as putting the two in the same room together.
Busta Rhymes also appears on “Nowhere”, a song that competes with “Compliments” for most memorable but with an even more egregious rap showcase. Busta’s been teetering between oddball and resurgent for a couple years now, but asking him to spit sex raps over a beat that’s so airy it basically feels like an a cappella is probably his most awkward assignment in a long, long time. For an album that’s almost entirely devoted to Tank’s prowess in the bedroom he sure doesn’t seem to realize how non-conducive to the bedroom old man Busta’s voice is, or always has been.
This Is How I Feel clocks in as Tank’s shortest project yet at just ten tracks and 40 minutes, but somehow it still manages to be something of a trial to get through. The only track that I was really able to catch myself enjoying was “Off Your Hands”, a song about stealing another man’s girlfriend because he isn’t having sex with her right. Not exactly an exciting premise, but he punctuates it with an enthusiastic as hell “best sex ever!” adlib alongside a “dun-nuh-nuh-nuh” that’s lifted right out of an old Hanna-Barbara cartoon that plants the song in a more ironic, R. Kelly Double Up sort of territory compared to all the self-serious material that surrounds it.
I suppose there’s also “Next Breath” and “Better Than Me”, the sort of R&B songs that barely exists anymore as Tank drops all the usual pretenses of being famous and unwaveringly self-satisfied to express some very sincere feelings of love and regret. It’s really a shame that this is the album Tank came up with, since he’s shown he can do better in the past and his voice is currently one of the more unique in the R&B field. If you’re just an unabashed fan of male R&B vocals, or the sight of Tank’s pecs on the cover has some sort of brainwashing effect on you, This Is How I Feel might be worth a few cursory spins on Spotify or what have you, but otherwise this is a release that will come and go with very little fanfare.