Tank Shows Strengths and Flaws Alike On ‘Stronger’
First things first, Tank (Durell Babbs) definitely has a smooth, soulful voice, perfectly suited for adult contemporary R&B. Throughout his albums, Tank has always sounded exceptional, particularly his breakthrough, Grammy-nominated album Sex, Love & Pain. On his sixth album Stronger, Tank still has the pipes, but the material just isn’t quite as alluring as his past work.
Something that is interesting about Stronger is the song length – only one song clocks in at less than four minutes. The songs, in general, seem to have an extended coda of sorts. The codas are ambitious, but don’t necessarily work successfully each time. Ultimately, while Tank sounds the part as always, his material does not uplift him to new heights.
“You’re My Star”
The opener, single “You’re My Star” easily ranks as one of the best moments of Stronger, where the bright production and optimism bode well in the artist’s favor. Keeping that in mind, using a Michael Jackson sample can only enhance, as “Heartbreak Hotel” does here. The best part of “You’re My Star,” is arguably the ‘extended coda’ with the sick-sounding drums.
“Nobody Better” does a great job of keeping the tempo quick, not to mention the energy itself. Even so, “Nobody Better” has a tough act to follow after a high-flying opener that is the level of “You’re My Star.” It doesn’t reach those same heights.
“Dance With Me” is as groovy as they come, which it should be considering it houses the word “dance” within the title. That said, Tank has never screamed ‘dance’ and certainly not neo-/contemporary disco – he’s definitely known more for grown and sexy slow jams. If nothing more, you have to admire Tank’s willingness to stretch. Keeping things danceable, “I Gotta Have It” proceeds. One pro – it is just over three minutes.
“Missing You” is feel-good and gives Stronger a nice, throwback soul cut. Like opener “You’re My Star,” Tank seems to be genuinely focused with his eye on the prize. That’s certainly something other songs can’t boast. “Same Way” doesn’t stand out like “Missing You” – it’s okay and nothing more. Tank opts for more swag during the coda, which is okay, though not earth-shattering.
“Hope This Makes You Love Me”
Tank ‘hits the lotto’ with “Hope This Makes You Love Me” and “Stronger.” “Hope This Makes You Love Me” shines thanks to Tank’s magnificent falsetto – he truly digs deep, adding some grit behind his ‘head’ voice. The songwriting isn’t ‘brand new,’ but the song hits all the right marks. Does he overdo it at the end – certainly, but it’s forgivable.
On “Stronger,” Tank feels among his most ‘at home’ – he’s in his niche. “Stronger” has some parallels to “Next Breath,” from the artist’s previous album. “Stronger” doesn’t rank quite as high as that single or quite as elite as other standouts from Tank’s discography, but it pretty strong on a ‘weaker’ album.
After a notable statement with “Stronger,” “Thanking You” has great intentions, though at over six-minutes, runs long. Thematically, Tank seems to repair his shortcomings, claiming he’s “finding all the answers in every tear I cry.” Like most of Stronger, a woman seems to be the source, however, “Thanking You” is written vaguely enough that perhaps some of the lyrics pertain to God. Be the judge yourself.
Tank closes Stronger ambitiously, but the jazzy “If That’s What It Takes” also drags on too long, feeling too indulgent. Sure, Tank is willing to do anything, including carrying “…your baby, do that nine months of pain / if that’s what it takes,” but his infatuation is overwrought. Yeah, of course Tank isn’t literally going to be pregnant, but the chivalrous line is too far-fetched to even register genuinely.
Takeaways from Stronger are that it falls short of the glory of Tank’s best albums. Sure, it has its moments, but as one listens, it always feels that the album is missing that extra nudge to take it to the next level. Mostly, the material just feels so-so and ‘been there, done that.’ It’s not abysmal by any means, but don’t call it great either.
Gems: “You’re My Star,” “Missing You,” “Hope This Makes You Love Me” & “Stronger”