Durrell Babbs, AKA Tank, has been holding it down for the modern R&B genre for over eleven years now, earning him the unofficial title of “General” in the field. As a background singer for the group Ginuwine, Tank learned the ropes, and it wasn’t long before he was diving headfirst into the world of slow jams and love songs.
His first four albums spawned big hits like “Maybe You Deserve,” “Emergency,” and “Please Don’t Go,” and over the years, he has perfected his songs of love, lust, and loss. He also has been trying his hand at producing, and has helped make hits for artists such as Omarion, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Hudson.
Tank’s fifth album (fourth with his shirt off on the cover, if you’re counting),This is How I Feel attempts to keep the familiar R&B formula rolling, but also goes back in the archives a bit to show a softer side to counter the player image he’s built up. It’s almost as if the first half of the album shows the worldly side off, boasting of sexual escapades and nights at the club, while the second half deals with the consequences of the former, providing some deeper thought and introspection.
The first five songs seemed a lot like that game you play with fortune cookies at the restaurant, where you add the words “in bed” to every fortune to make it funny. Track after track is straight-up, slow jam, baby-making music, but honestly, if you start listening to the lyrics, I can’t see many women being romanced by it.
“Lonely” sounds thematically a lot like the old Biblical adage “All is vanity,” as Tank and Chris Brown explicitly recount a love lost. With lyrics about wandering the clubs and strip joints for a girl to replace her, they come to the point that “All these new girls, they’re not you girl.” I’m sure it’s nice to be finally appreciated, but I’m guessing she doesn’t want to hear about all the “other girls.”
Then “Compliments” features female singer Kris Stephens on the track, in an attempt to give a woman the respect she deserves. It starts out pretty well, but then T.I. comes in on the bridge to rap crassly describing her body, and completely kills whatever mood Tank was trying to create. “Don’t Give Up” and “Nowhere” then follow suit, and seem more interested in getting the girl in bed again, and the whole thing starts getting old.
Fortunately, part two is worth waiting for. The title track is the first to boast a creative beat and varied approach, making it feel more like a futuristic slow jam. Tank finally starts showing off some of his vocal ability on this one, and though the subject matter doesn’t change a lot, it’s definitely the turning point on the disc.
The next three tracks are pretty stellar in my opinion, and actually give us a look into Tank’s brain for some honest feelings and deeper themes. “Next Breath” is the first true love song on the album, showing thankfulness and repentance all in one verse. Lyrics like “I fell in love more than once, but every single time it was with you” show there is more to Tank than some other songs would suggest.
He even addresses that head on in the piano-driven ballad, “Better Than Me.” He shows off his falsetto on this gorgeous tune about realizing the beauty in the girl he lost, and fully comes to conclusions about his behavior leading to this point. In a complete change of pace from side one, he actually wishes her the best with her new love, and lets her go. “Lost It All” then sums it all up, and provides the introspection of how his life is changed in the aftermath. It reminds me a lot of the vibe in his cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” off his last album, and gives me hope that future outings from Tank have all the potential in the world.
Try This Track: “Next Breath”