Tank's debut, Force of Nature, had explosive appeal for his mostly female audience. Sporting tattoos, an oily Right-On-magazine-ready physique and a sweet crooner's tune about deserving his partner's comeuppance for his cheating and mistreatment of her, Tank was an instant hit with the ladies (and Public Enemy Number One with plenty of men crying foul). Despite his successful follow-up single, the gorgeous soul ballad, "Slowly", Tank's first album-while exceptionally sung-was a bit schizophrenic in theme and subject matter. The second, One Man, seemed rushed and quickly after its release ...well, tanked shortly after hitting the Billboard Top 20. All of which, might make one skeptical of a new project from Mr. Babbs. Tank, however, silences all doubts on Sex, Love and Pain. Throughout the work, Tank maintains his core urban sound but improves upon it in every area, from vocals to arrangement, demonstrating enormous growth in the ensuing five years since One Man. He also achieves a rare feat for the modern crooner, an album that should equally appeal to both men and women lovers of contemporary R&B.
The Milwaukeean reared in the choir lofts of Clinton, Maryland is clearly a church-bred singer who can effortlessly run up and down the chromatic scale in his sleep. While melisma is a signature element of Tank's unique tenor, he somewhat restrains his histrionics here, learning to trust the lyric and melody to carry his stripped bare songs. Instead of always going for the earth shattering highs he hits on the first movement of "Coldest", Tank more often opts to express the story's exquisite aches as he nicely does on the Underdogs produced "Heartbreaker". In tone and phrasing, "My Heart", Tank demonstrates the difference between delicate handling and whining, earning a potential quiet storm favorite. When this church boy turns his sights to the bedroom on pure sex ditties like "My Body", listeners are in skilled, grown-up hands. Setting a new baby-making standard, Tank, accompanied by harmonic coaxing, maturely asks his partner to just tell him "When" she's satisfied before he finally indulges his own metaphoric "musical" release with confident cries and gut-bucket shouts. Blessedly, on songs sacred or profane, Tank is always on time and in tune.
Wisely, he doesn't drown this project in sweets and sweat. Sex, Love and Pain offers plenty of infectious soap opera for listeners looking for guilty finger-popping merriment. Rhyme heavy phrasing and gyration-inspiring groove lines sap any listener sympathy for Tank on "I Hate You", instead, you may find yourself gleefully singing along to his sad anthem of pain and duplicity. The politically incorrect "Who Dat" is another entertaining song of betrayal, whose relentless questioning conjures up the best knock-down, drag-out episodes of Cheaters. With Tank at the helm, ghetto love hasn't sounded this good and been so bad for you in years. Though the ebony Adonis intelligently pokes fun at himself by amusingly getting played quite a bit on Sex, Love and Pain, Tank isn't always the victim on his lighter fare. The mid-tempo groove, "I Love You" is a shoulder bumping, stepper tune that musically winks at Hall and Oates "She's Gone". Tank also imaginatively pays homage to Marvin Gaye's rafter reaching riffs on the car-thumper "I'm Coming Home" and to the Ying Yang Twins "Wait (The Whisper Song)" on the blazing Timbaland produced club-banger "I Love Them Girls (Remix)".
Since this is honest music for the boys as well as the broads, Tank has made a few distracting concessions to our youth-obsessed times. Pandering to some underdeveloped male sentiments, there are a few immature, low-brow comedy skits thrown into the mix and an eye-brow raising sophomore phrase or ten on songs like "Who Dat" and the gimmicky "The Wedding Song". Still, there is so much here to recommend Sex, Love and Pain, there will surely be enlistees ready to ride this freshly armored Tank all the way to platinum glory.
By L. Michael Gipson