By Jack Barnes
In 2017, the singer Tank went into Spotify’s headquarters to meet with Mjeema Pickett, the streaming service’s global programming head for R&B. “They couldn’t believe — and I couldn’t believe — my streaming numbers,” Tank says. “They were like, ‘It’s crazy, because your ratio of listens to downloads is phenomenal: When a person hears your record, they snatch it and put it on a playlist.’ I’m like, ‘You know I’m over 40, right?’”
Tank is now 42 and full of cheerful quips like, “Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m the handsomest guy in town, still working on the other days of the week.” He celebrated a new milestone in February by earning his first-ever gold-certified single (500,000 units) with “When We.” In the streaming era, which elevates young acts at the expense of everyone else, a gold certification for a 42-year-old is a remarkable accomplishment. It’s especially rare for an R&B singer, since Tank and his peers are primarily heard on the radio format known as Adult R&B or Urban Adult Contemporary, which is usually ignored by the majority of mainstream gatekeepers on the airwaves and at other media outlets. In the last three years, just one other Adult R&B singer over 35 — a formidable group that includes Mary J. Blige, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson — has earned a gold plaque: John Legend with “Love Me Now.” But he also had significant support from pop radio; Tank’s “When We” did not.
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