It happens every time he enters a room. It’s not just the expected whiplash inspired by the average celebrity sighting. It’s as if the temperature of the room changes. Girls don’t just gasp — they hold their breath. They don’t just stare, they stake him out. Posture improves. Backs arch. Tresses are tossed. Giggles climb an octave or two.
Trey Songz doesn’t make a dramatic entrance, though. He saunters into the Williamsburg studio quietly, fully aware of his affect on the xx population. His presence is more enigmatic than engaging. He knows you’re watching so he doesn’t need to flirt or fawn for attention. When he does offer you his palm, he looks directly into your eyes and commands your gaze until you bless him with a familiar blush.
And of course, you devour the tiny morsel of affection like it’s a five-course meal.
He’s a small dude. Not obnoxiously handsome or physically dazzling. His signature “I’m-too-sexy” pout seems a bit forced. And the 25-year-old is built more like a wrestler then a linebacker.
And still, there’s something about Trey…
Nope. We won’t do it. We refuse to utter The S-word as a lazy explanation for his “It-factor.” Instead, we conducted a careful case study and concluded that it comes down to three things: His mojo, his mystique, and his music.
If you could jar pheromones and produce cologne from their essence, Trey would be doused in the stuff. Mojo is a charm so powerful that it’s considered magical.
Even though Trey is on his best behavior in light of the fallout from our last interview, he reeks of it. Even though his publicist chaperons this time around and promptly shuts down any sexy-time talk, Trey’s mojo hangs thick and heavy in the air. And yes, he insists on playing Sade as mood music for our interview in the telly suite…
Why do women love you?
I’m a lovable guy. You don’t think so? I’m confident. That exudes. Women like men who are confident. I’m humble and I was raised by women so I know what women like.
Confident yet humble?
Yes. Can you not be confident and humble at the same time?
Yes, but not arrogant. You don’t think you have any arrogance about you?
Most definitely. There has to be a sense of arrogance.
So you have a sense of arrogance, but are also very humble?
Yeah, well it exudes. I think that people see that.
The humility or the arrogance?
I think they see the humble as well. My fans see that.
Well, you definitely seem very confident in the “I Invented Sex” video…
I did a write up about it on my blog that explains where I got the concept. There’s a banned Calvin Klein commercial with a man with two women — a little more risqué, a little more raunchy — and there’s also an Eva Mendes Calvin Klein commercial; I kind of brought the two together. I knew Drake wasn’t going to be on this version, so I took that time to get sensual, to talk to the woman and make a new conversation piece. From here on out, with videos, with song structure, with everything — I’m trying to make it more like an event, more so than a motion, because everything in the music business usually moves clockwork. You got to do this, this way; this should be done, this way. I’m trying to think outside of the box with everything I do and make sure things are done in an innovative way that makes people look like ‘Ohhh… that’s different.’
Of all the guys in R&B you seem to be the sex symbol, clearly. We’ve even compared you to D’Angelo at his prime. What do you think of the comparison?
A comparison to D’Angelo?
Think about his “Untitled” video.
That’s the moment he became a sex symbol. Do we know the moment I became a sex symbol? No. There’s no significant moment where that happened for me. And there’s nothing that I really… maybe when I cut my hair, I don’t know. But for me, it’s never been something we chased after. The album cover was just showing the new me, showing that I’ve been working out, showing my hair is cut. If you look inside the packaging it’s showing the other side of the evolution where my suits are tailored, where — things of that nature — so, I don’t know if I would compare myself to D’Angelo in that way. But I definitely feel it. I definitely feel the sex symbol status.
So there was no point of climax for you? No “I’m grown” moment? Even if it just looks that way from where we stand?
There’s never a moment that takes you from a kid to a man. It happens over time. I’m a young man now and I’ll still learn more as I grow about how to be a man. I am a man, I am an adult, but you know, it’s life. Life changes, there are things you go through — on a personal and business level — that make that change evident.
Trey knows when to work his mouth and when to slip out of the hot seat. He’s not a tease but he gives just enough to keep you whet. He doesn’t want you leaving completely satisfied so he straddles the line of full-disclosure and mystery. It’s his way of ensuring a chance to give a repeat performance. He’ll definitely keep you guessing; wondering if the things “they say” are true…
What is your biggest fault?
I wouldn’t tell my biggest fault.
Why would I tell my biggest fault? That’s like telling my weakness. Why would I?
To open yourself up to your fans…
I do, but I can’t give my whole life to my fans. Then the mystique is gone. If you know everything about someone, why would you continue to pursue that person?
The mystique — do you think that’s apart of it too?
Most definitely, that’s a part of any artistry. There has to be a mystique. In order for women to want me and kids to think I’m the coolest and men to want to be me, there has to be something about me that’s ‘wow.’ If you get rid of the ‘wow’ who cares?
What do you think of Twitter? I know you have a twitter account, but is it you actually twittering?
All the promo stuff is you?
Yeah. Most of the time it’s my ideas.
Ok, so do you use Twitter as a way to share your life or as a promotional vehicle for your fans? To keep them updated.
As an artist, I feel as though, I share a lot of my life anyway.
What do you mean?
Interviews, TV, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Ustream. As an artist, if I tweet right now I would be tweeting ‘Doing an interview, about to go to BET.” After BET I will be tweeting ‘I’m about going to a meeting.’ If I tweet things like that, it becomes promotional so I make sure that sometimes I mix and mingle the two. In a lot of ways, that’s what got me to where I am — as far as this album is concerned — because nobody expected me to sell the records. I did. It wasn’t calculated for. I didn’t have a record big enough to draw that many people, which is generally the way labels and the industry calculate how many records a person is going to sell. But for me, that can’t be calculated because I’ve done so much Internet stuff; the mixtapes, the Ustreams, the SayNow. The social networking is actually a way to get my fans closer to me and for them to have a relationship with me. While giving them, what sometimes is promotional, it’s only right that they get a piece of me. Why? Because it’s me that’s giving it. It’s not a label; it’s not a flier. It’s me promoting myself.
Craziest tweet from a fan?
Oh, man. TwitPics. I get the craziest TwitPics. Bathtubs and suds, all types of stuff — I follow a lot of my fans so my direct message inbox is always filled.
You do follow a lot of people. Isn’t it noisy — your timeline?
I generally don’t see my timeline. If I do check, it’s about 200 or 300 new messages. There’s really no way for me to follow anyone, but my fans like it when I follow them. I’m doing this thing on Ustream now — every Thursday in December, I’m giving away 500 dollars to the 25th caller who sings a Christmas song. A lot of the callers on the way to 25 want me to follow them on twitter.
Ready opens with: “This right here’s a panty-dropper.”
But after a Trey show, the stage is littered with as many panties as pacifiers. JK! But you have to admit, he does have a unique ability to appeal to grown-ass women with tracks like “Neighbors Know My Name” and “Say Ahh” (really?!) without alienating the 106th & Parkers who aren’t old enough to purchase a post-coital stogie. (As gag-worthy as it looks on the track-listing, “LOL Smiley Face” is a genius title.) With chest-pumping declarations like “I Invented Sex,” Honey recommends picking up some prophylactic as soon as you add Ready to your playlist…
How would you define this moment in your career? You had your debut [I Gotta Make It], your sophomore album [Trey Day] — of course, you were younger, kind of establishing yourself. Where would you say you are three albums in with Ready?
I’m still establishing myself, I would say. I’m opening myself up to a fanbase that never knew me so while my first album was the original introduction; the second album was probably a step further into introducing myself. I feel this album is still an introduction because it’s more people coming on board.
What do you mean?
I mean, there’s so much further it can go. No matter how much of a success this album is or how big the records are, I feel as though I’m scratching the surface of my potential with this album because the vision I had for myself is much bigger than that.
Where do you see yourself going after this?
It’s all forward progression. It’s only forward for me. If forward is bigger, better records — most definitely that. But, within moving forward, I plan to further establish my non-profit organization, Songz For Peace and touch people more. Do something with what I’ve taken in with my popularity, with my celebrity, as well as make records that touch people. I’ve got everyone’s attention now. There’s more people watching now.
When comparing yourself to other guys in R&B, who do you consider your competition?
I’m my own competition.
Who would you consider your peers in this game?
Who’s the closest to where you are? Do you think you’re at a disadvantage at all, because you don’t dance?
Have you ever feel pressured to be that? Because everyone else is?
I think that’s what makes me different. If you think back to the days when Marvin Gaye was out and the Temptations were out; they had choreography and Marvin had whatever he was doing, but it wasn’t choreographed moves. It was vibes. If you see one of my shows, I channel another energy that replaces what dancing would. I do plan to grow my show — not to say choreography or dancing will be apart of it — although that’s something I feel I can do, it’s not something I really wanted to do. It’s been mentioned before, but that’s not the man I am.
How do you bring the energy?
I mean it’s through the passion I put into it — from when I step on stage, to the faces I make to get the notes out, to my band, to the way the crowd feels. It’s almost as if I am acting out on a lot of the records and I urge myself to get better at it. I am a showman and I hope to display better showmanship as I grow. Pressure to dance? No.
There’s been a trend in R&B, like with The-Dream and Jeremih — their music and production emulates R. Kelly’s legacy. But I’m noticing with yours; it’s actually the quality of your voice that is reminiscent of R Kelly. How do you take those comparisons?
That comes from me listening to so much R. Kelly. Before I was even thinking to pursue music I would only listen to R. Kelly. That comes from me studying his music. Sometimes our tones are similar and sometimes the inflections I make with my voice is something that he would do, just because it’s my subconscious. And that’s not something that I try to do, it’s just something that is just there. To be compared to who I feel is the King of R&B has never been an insult. I’ve been compared to R. Kelly since my first album.
Have you heard his latest one? What do you think of it?
I think it’s good. I don’t think it’s great. I don’t think it’s amazing. It’s better than the last few albums he’s put out. He has some great records on there. I know I like six off top that I know all the words to right now.
Would you do a collaboration with him?
Now that would be a track worth 12 plays. Not sure if there is enough room for Trey, Kellz, and his mojo, though …