In 2001, R&B singer Maxwell released his third full-length album, “Now,” with a cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” The album went to the top of the Billboard 200 chart, the Bush cover ended up being licensed to the film “Love & Basketball” and Maxwell looked to be one of the enduring stars of the neo-soul movement.
Then, eight years passed.
Depending on the interview, Maxwell, who is performing with Nas at Barclays Center on Sunday, has said he sat out most of the first decade of this century because of a crisis of confidence, swirling artistic ideas or, simply, living outside of the spotlight. No matter the reason, he returned in 2009 to release “BLACKsummers’night” and was greeted with chart success and two Grammy Awards. It was to be the first of three albums released, but true to form, Maxwell has taken his sweet time putting out the follow-ups.
These in-between album breaks are not unheard of in R&B, particularly over the last 20 or so years. In fact, some of the genre’s biggest stars and potential breakout artists have found themselves, for one reason or another, without new albums for long stretches of time. Maxwell is in good company:
The Artist: Sade
The Albums: 1992’s “Love Deluxe,” 2000’s “Lovers Rock” and 2010’s “Soldier of Love”
The Reason: Over the last 25 years, Sade has shown that time is not a concern. In the years between the band’s albums, lead singer Sade Adu retreats to the rural English countryside, and often seems reticent to leave.
The Artist: Ms. Lauryn Hill
The Albums: 1998’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and ...
The Reason: Pick one: Rumors of an inability or unwillingness to handle the spotlight, the demands of a growing family, a 2013 stint in jail due to tax issues. No matter the cause, there’s little doubt that a new album from the ex-Fugee would be one of the biggest events in music in 2016 — and one of the biggest sellers, as well.
The Artist: D’Angelo
The Albums: 2000’s “Voodoo” and 2014’s “Black Messiah”
The Reason: Personal struggles and extreme self-doubt in the wake of the success of “Untitled (How Does It Feel)“ led to drug and alcohol abuse. But the singer/songwriter rebounded with guest appearances and festival performances before releasing one of the best albums of 2014.
The Artist: Res
The Albums: 2001’s “How I Do” and 2009’s “Black.Girls.Rock!”
The Reason: “They-Say Vision” and “Golden Boys” were hits for the Philadelphia soul artist, but she got caught in the label politics of the early 2000s. MCA, her label, got folded into Geffen Records, and it wouldn’t be until 2009 that a new album would see the light of day (and that one saw a limited self-release).
The Artist: Frank Ocean
The Albums: 2012’s “Channel Orange” and ...
The Reason: With Kanye West’s new album finally set for release, Ocean may take over the crown of “Most Eagerly Anticipated.” How much longer will we wait?