Some of us over here at the Weekly have been fans of Brian McKnight since he burst onto the scene in 1992. And with an upcoming show at City National Grove of Anaheim on February 13th, we knew there'd be zero chance that we'd be passing up the opportunity to talk to him finally 20+ years later. “BMK” has had quite a solid career with countless albums and Grammy noms under his belt so we figured before getting your Valentine's Day brownie points on by scoring tickets for your sweetie to see this soulful crooner live and up-close, we'd dig in with everything we possibly could with Mr. Brian McKnight.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): So I didn't watch the game that you recently sang the national anthem at but I did watch you sing because, loyalty. I noticed you got feedback all day and I was thinking, why were people surprised you did so great?
Brian McKnight: Well I think in that case, they very rarely show the national anthem being sung because they don't know if that person is going to do well. And they definitely don't show it when that many people are watching. I mean, we're talking about a divisional game that was nationally televised. There are also so many times that people have messed it up or people have forgotten the words but in this particular case I think it was almost like, people out there forgot that some people can sing! I didn't really do anything with it either, I just sang it. Some of the comments I got were like, “Oh man! You could've taken that so many places!” The thing is, I understand that people don't go to sporting events to hear people sing an anthem. It's not a Brian McKnight concert. I don't know, I think a lot of people made a big deal out of it but hey, it was fun to be a trending topic for singing something that basically I didn't do much for.
Well after reading all the feedback I was shocked iTunes didn't try to cash in like they did with that Whitney Houston moment.
[Laughs.] Something that I've learned over my career is that when you are being considered for something, there's always a sexier choice. Like, ohhh we know Brian McKnight will be a great choice but what if we got so and so? Then they get someone else and that person goes up there and the audience is like, what the hell was that? For me, I sit back and laugh because they're always going for the oh la la factor. We've turned into a society that only cares about ratings. Not just on TV or with music, but with life because of social media. It's all about ratings and power. They chose me to sing the national anthem and then people were like, Oh yeah! That guy who's been singing my entire life did a good job! What did they think? All of the sudden I was going to forget to how to sing? It's just funny.
Gotcha. And speaking of ratings and power, do you think the Grammys have some sort of Susan Lucci thing with you?
No because just like other awards shows, it's not an award given to you by the people who buy your records. Really and honestly for me, and I'm not saying this because I don't have one but, my brother has 10 of them and it doesn't really do much for him. He can say I'm a Grammy Award winner but, I'm sure he'd rather have the millions of records that I've sold than the 10 Grammys! I remember when I wrote a song for a movie and I had to lobby it for the Oscars. I had to go here and there and have lunch with all of these people to lobby it and I got to the point where I was like, this is bullshit! If they can't just listen to the song and hear how it impacted the movie, I don't even want it.
I didn't even think about it that way because I think as fans, we've invested time and are rooting for “our artist” to win.
Yeah, if you're in the right clique or have the right label, you're fine. The awards that I do have mean more to me because they are tangible. And sure I'd love to have one but it's not like it'll validate my life to get one. Look at it this way, there are artists this year who will get Grammys and…
Shhh. Not another word. Haha. I get what you're throwing. Let's talk about one of the most epic songs in life which is, “Let Me Show You How Your Pussy Works.”
I'll only talk about it if you call it by the actual title.
[Laughs.] See? It's called “If You're Ready to Learn.” In actuality, I believe that is one of the cleverest songs that I've ever written. I wrote that song from the perspective of a vibrator. I did that because on the radio show that I did some years prior, I had asked about women who were in relationships but were not being sexually satisfied. The phone lines lit up! What I learned from that was, if you don't know how to please yourself, it's going to be very difficult for you to let someone else make you feel pleasure. When I get a clever idea in my head, I write it. I don't always release it though and this isn't the only song that I've written like this. It's just the only one I've let go public. Before I released this song I only had about 30,000 followers. Since then, I've gained about another 80,000 followers! It was a perfect storm in a lot of ways. Whether you loved it or hated it, you were talking about it and with social media, isn't that what you want?
Well bias over here loved it and I thought it was funny because a lot of R&B fans weren't ready for a song like that.
No. They weren't ready for a song like that from me! [Laughs.] If R. Kelly would've done it people would've thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I think that with the intellectual side and perspective that I came from, only I could do it because only I think like that. [Laughs.] I think that people also need to be the same across the board, it's only fair. I mean, don't bash my song but then be at the club singing a song about beating the pussy up.
Ha! So true…if R. Kelly or maybe Lil Wayne released that. Bam! Top 10 hit.
That's exactly it! Lil Wayne could release a song called, “I just want to fuck every girl in the entire world” and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that! I was just trying to empower women to let them know that it's OK for them to pleasure themselves so they can be on a higher playing ground for love making. And I get criticized! Isn't that amazing? [Laughs.]
Oh my god hilarious! Well since we're clearly on the topic of romance, will you be showering the audience in Anaheim with your romantic hits or will you be doing songs off of your latest album?
Yeah I'll be singing the hits because I'm not stupid. I know what people want to hear and why they're coming. I wouldn't do a show full of songs they've never heard before. Well, you know that because you've seen my show before. I do my best to play what they want to hear and then find interesting ways to play songs that I also want to play. That's really what we try to do. I never really know what I'm going to play, I just know what I have to play. My fans are really great though and it really does boggle my brain that twenty-three years later, people still want to come out to see me. All I know is that if they continue to come see me, I'll continue to come out and see them.
Check out Brian McKnight at the City National Grove of Anaheim February 13th, 2200 East Katella Avenue Anaheim CA 92806, (714) 712-2700. Grab your tickets at www.CityNationalGroveOfAnaheim.com. For more info on Brian, go to www.McKnight360.com and follow him on Twitter @ItsBMcKnight.
Ali Lerman knows much about comedy, basketball, and celebrating Wu-Tang Wednesday. She’s been writing for sixteen years and still calls her mom with grammatical questions.