There is one undeniable fact about Johnny Gill’s Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum career. The singer/songwriter/producer sure knows how to rub music fans the right way.
Gill further fortifies that inimitable legacy with his latest release, Game Changer II (J Skillz Records/Kalvary). Like its predecessor, 2014’s Game Changer, Gill’s eighth solo studio album arrives packed with an avalanche of hits. In fact, the singer has already claimed an R&B No. 1 with the set’s lead single “Soul of a Woman.” Inspired by Gill’s mother Annie Mae, the song praises the power of women—which is exquisitely captured in its accompanying video co-starring Emmy Award winner Tiffany Haddish.
GC II’s second single, which went top ten on the charts, is: “Perfect.” Extolling the virtues of natural beauty, strength, and intellect, the sultry ballad reunites Gill with his New Edition bandmate Ralph Tresvant. But ballads weren’t the only thing on Gill’s mind while recording this project.
The 11-track set boasts several up-tempo, genre-bending tracks such as the Latin-spiced “Fiesta” featuring icons Carlos Santana and Sheila E., the reggae-tinged love song “Only One” and “That’s My Baby,” a sumptuous tribute to one of Gill’s biggest heroes, Luther Vandross. Rounding out the guest cameos is After 7 lead singer Kevon Edmonds on “Home.” And on “So Hard,” Gill teams up again with legendary producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the masterminds behind his 1990 breakthrough hit “Rub You the Right Way.” (Gill shares the creative inspiration behind each GC II selection, including three bonus tracks, following the bio.)
“I wanted to focus on including more tempo because I haven’t recorded those kinds of songs in a while,” says Gill of recruiting Jam & Lewis, Gregg Pagani, and Elvis “Blac Elvis” Williams, among other producers. “I like to party as well. So they came up with nice tempo records that allowed me to be Johnny without compromising who I am.”
As the formidable next chapter in Gill’s career, Game Changer II underscores once more why he is a long-distance legacy artist with a brand that’s ever-evolving. The new album builds on the career renaissance that predecessor Game Changer ushered in five years ago. That project detonated five R&B hit singles, including the No. 1 “This One’s for Me and You.”
In fact, in every arena that he has entered, the volcanic-voiced Gill has been a game-changer. Discovered at 16 years old, he released two albums through Atlantic Records. He next joined now-iconic boy band New Edition, helping them segue melodically from novelty to longevity on timeless classics such as “If It Isn’t Love” and “Can You Stand the Rain.” As a linchpin of legendary Motown Records’ ‘90s comeback roster, Gill exploded as a solo artist with an indelible one-two punch from producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (“Rub You the Right Way”) and L.A. Reid & Babyface (“My, My, My”). Alongside Gerald Levert and Keith Sweat, Gill established L.S.G., the powerful R&B supergroup behind the sexy smash “My Body.” He also formed another supergroup, Heads of State, with New Edition peers Bobby Brown and Tresvant.
After a 15-year solo hiatus, Gill made a stunning return to the game with 2011’s Still Winning. The set peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the magazine’s R&B album chart. Then came the pivotal Game Changer on Gill’s own record label J Skillz.
That move also signaled another phase in Gill’s multi-faceted career: entrepreneur. With GC and GC II now under his belt, Gill has signed Tresvant to the J Skillz roster. The pair are working on Tresvant’s first solo album since 2006. “We’ve got some great stuff coming beyond the ‘Perfect’ single,” says Gill of the album, which will be released this year.
The pair have just teamed up again for Ralph Tresvant’s new single, “All Mine”, on Ralph’s solo project. After their partnership resulted in the 2019 hit “Perfect”; why mess with perfection? This time with Ralph taking the lead of course. With production again from Gregg Pagani, “All Mine” is as cool and comfortable as any song ever recorded by either artist.
Following Johnny’s involvement in the 2017 television rating bonanza The New Edition Story, Gill recently completed filming a role in Spinning Gold. In the forthcoming biopic about Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, Gill plays Clarence Burke Jr. who was the lead singer of the Five Stairsteps (top 40 hit “O-o-h Child”).
A fervent believer in giving back, Gill is a longtime supporter of the L.A. Speech & Language Therapy Center, which provides treatment and services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other diagnoses. “Music is so universal and can be so healing to our souls,” says Gill. “I love watching these children work through their problems, evolve, and do things no one ever dreamed they could.”
With his ongoing projects and a wish list that includes recording a Christmas album and a covers album of R&B classics by Vandross, Al Green and more (“All the greats I grew up listening to,” says Gill), the singer clearly isn’t planning to step out of the game just yet. Ask the secret behind his career longevity, Gill laughs and says, “If I knew what the secret was, I’d bottle it up and sell it. All I can say is I still have a passion for music. And there’s still a platform out here for me to express myself and inspire people in a world that still needs a lot of work.”
Whatever Johnny Gill has coming next, fans can rest assured of one thing. He never just plays the game. He changes it … every time.
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