For years now, an unreleased D'Angelo album has been dangling in front of our eyes, but we still can't grab it. A lot of that has to do with the artist himself, his reclusiveness, fear of failure and seeming perfectionism. Some of it has to with his body.
What's crazy is how much his weight is still playing a role in his comeback potential, as if he has to have that impossible eight-pack body back in order to prosper. Several stories have surfaced about his public disappearance and his battle with alcoholism, including this 2008 Spin article and GQ's exclusive first interview with D'Angelo in 2012.
Vice's recent oral history charts D'Angelo's musical roots while trying to answer the question: Where's his album, though?
One telling portion is when D's trainer Mark Jenkins explains putting the singer on a strict diet pre-"Untitled (How Does It Feel)," and it sounds like what many women artists go through for their promo cycles. Jenkins tells Vice:
I had been training D's publicist at the time, who was a real slim guy and I put a certain amount of muscle mass on him, to the extent where D noticed, and he was like, "Can you train me?" To his credit, he gave me control, so what I told him to eat, he ate, and what I told him to drink, he drank. We trained really hard. Real intense training. And his body started to change.
What I always tell him is, "I think I failed you as a trainer, because while I got you in shape, I didn't teach you how to integrate it into your lifestyle." Him rebelling and just not caring about his body for a while, I think [D'Angelo being looked at as a sex symbol] became the catalyst for all that stuff.
If you could imagine, you're an introverted guy playing the piano, and the transformation took less than 90 days, so within two or three months people are telling you to take off your clothes, it's quite a shock. I don't think he was ready for it.
So just as the D'Angelo of 2000 was opening himself up to the idea of selling sex, that same video helped many of us (myself included) embrace our own sexuality. In a way, both fan and artist felt the discomfort of feeling a lot of sexy feelings, but it was a pleasant sensation for us. For D'Angelo, not so much.
In 2008, Jenkins noted how uncomfortable D was with his new shell: "You've got to realize, he'd never looked like that before in his life. To be somebody who was so introverted, and then, in a matter of three or four months, to be so ripped — everything was happening so quickly."
Jenkins says today:
We almost had him when Amy [Wallace, from GQ] was interviewing him. He did the GQ shoot, and you saw in those pictures he was almost back. Maybe 40 pounds back to the video. Our goal is always to get back to where we started.
But the perfection D'Angelo seeks — both musical and physical — has proven elusive.
Unfair expectations? Shouldn't we at this point just focus on the music? In the meantime, D'Angelo's album is basically complete — tantalizingly close, yet, for now, unobtainable.
Image via Getty