If there's one thing that you read today, make sure that it's Amy Wallace’s delicious profile of R&B singer Michael "D’Angelo" Archer in GQ. It's D's first sit-down interview in almost a dozen years and coincides with the near completion of his third studio album—also the first in a dozen years, since the platinum-selling Voodoo.
After the release of the now iconic video of "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)—four minutes and 28 seconds of unabashed objectification of his abs, pecs and lips—the singer says the public obsession with of his body became "torture." This was the beginning of a free-fall which ultimately ended in addiction, several stints in rehab and a string of arrests.
But for many, it was skin, not just music, that helped D cross over from R&B maestro to mainstream sex object. In 2000 he released the smoldering video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)," an instant sensation that made fans everywhere, especially women, lose their lustful minds. It's easy to find on YouTube: 26-year-old D'Angelo, naked from the hip bones up, staring straight into the camera, licking his lips and writhing in ecstasy. The video propelled him to superstardom—but it claimed its pound of flesh. D struggled mightily with the way his body threatened to overshadow his music. Then he all but disappeared.
But as D began to fall apart, the video would be the only thing many fans remembered. "The video was the line of demarcation,” says [A&R executive Greg Harris]. "It sent him spinning out of control."…The trouble began right away, at the start of the Voodoo tour in L.A. "It was a week of warm-up gigs at House of Blues just to kick off the tour, draw some attention, break in the band," says Alan Leeds, D’s tour manager then and now. "And from the beginning, it’s 'Take it off!'" …
D’Angelo felt tortured, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson says, by the pressure to give the audience what it wanted. Worried that he didn’t look as cut as he did in the video, he’d delay shows to do stomach crunches. He’d often give in, peeling off his shirt, but he resented being reduced to that. Wasn’t he an artist? Couldn’t the audience hear the power of his music and value him for that? He would explode, Questlove recalls, and throw things. Sometimes he’d have to be coaxed not to cancel shows altogether. When I ask D about this, he downplays his suffering. Watching him pull hard on another Newport, I realize that he finds it far easier to confess his addictions than his insecurities about his corporeal self. Self-destructing with a coke spoon—while ill-advised—has a badass edge. Fretting over what Questlove has called “some Kate Moss shit” seems anything but manly.
How does it feel indeed.
There's also a ROFL anecdote about D'Angelo rebuffing an over-aggressive Madonna. Ouch.
In case you forgt the sensuality of the video, watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...
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