How Johnny Gill’s Latest Hit Revived New Edition
Not many artists are still landing hits on radio three decades after their initial encounter with success, but Johnny Gill — who first scaled the charts in the early Eighties — is one notable exception. “This One’s for Me and You” is his third straight Top 10 hit on the Adult R&B chart, and one of his most successful solo singles since the Nineties.
Throughout Gill’s 30-year career, his volcanic voice has always been balanced by an interest in being a team player. He recorded duets with Stacey Lattisaw, joined the group New Edition after the departure of Bobby Brown, and later put out a pair of albums with Gerald Levert and Keith Sweat in LSG.
Gill’s influence is still discernible in R&B and rap. When D’Angelo first gained attention for winning Amateur Night at the Apollo at age 16, he covered Gill’s biggest solo hit, “Rub You the Right Way.” Last year, Chris Brown and Dej Loaf could be found trading verses over a late-Eighties New Edition sample — Gill became a member in 1987 — and Ariana Grande interpolated Gill’s “My, My, My” on “Adore,” her collaboration with Cashmere Cat. BET is currently at work on a New Edition biopic.
But few predicted the success of Gill’s Game Changer, which arrived in December of 2014. More than 15 months after the record’s release, “This One’s for Me and You,” which features the other members of New Edition, is at Number Three on the Adult R&B chart. “A few artists in our format are able to stay on the charts with two or three singles,” says Skip Dillard, who has been a radio programming director since 1993 and has held the position at New York’s 107.5 WBLS (“Your #1 Source for R&B”) for the last eight years. “But there’s not a lot who can work an album for a long period of time.”
Spend some time with “This One’s for Me and You” and you begin to see how Gill does it: The rhythm is forceful but cool, the harmonies are buttery, and heaps of strings add a touch of opulence, hinting at the early-Seventies glory of Philadelphia soul. Halfway into the first verse, those strings appear and swell steadily into the chorus — a simple, endlessly effective trick that increases the sense of release during the hook. In the second verse, smartly mixed backing vocals mimic the same action. The single is also part of a storied tradition of songs about the greatness of songs. “So let the record play/I love the way/It makes your body move,” Gill sings.
The track was written by Gregg Pagani, with help from Lance Tolbert, Carlos Battey and Damon Sharpe. Pagani has extensive experience working with R&B veterans — he co-produced Babyface’s 2005 record, Grown & Sexy, and contributed to the five most recent solo albums from Charlie Wilson, former lead singer of the Gap Band. (Pagani’s writing credits include “There Goes My Baby,” a Grammy-nominated single for Wilson that spent multiple weeks at Number One on the Adult R&B chart.) “This One’s for Me and You” was originally intended for Wilson’s latest album, but it wasn’t finished in time.