‘The music tastes better’: How setbacks ‘seasoned’ Anthony Hamilton's artistry
Anthony Hamilton sits down with Eyewitness News to discuss his upcoming shows over Heritage Day weekend, why South Africa is his ‘second home’, and how life experiences shaped his three-decade-long career.
JOHANNESBURG - Very few artists have been able to permeate the music zeitgeist like Anthony Hamilton.
Growing up, his voice was a staple in my house where I wouldn’t go a Sunday without hearing his 2011 hit, Best of Me - a favourite among my household.
And though it’s not where the story of his triumphant career began, his album, Comin' from Where I'm From - technically his second album but pretty much functions as his commercial debut after label disputes prevented him from officially releasing XTC in 1996 - quickly pushed him into becoming one of the most successful male R&B artists of the 2000s, along the likes of Usher, Joe, Ginuwine, and Ne-Yo.
The platinum-certified album also earned him numerous award nominations, including four from the Grammys, two from the BET Awards, three from the NAACP Image Awards, and three from the Soul Train Music Awards.
Hits like the title track, Comin' from Where I'm From, and the platinum-certified Charlene, his most successful Billboard hit to date, are still beloved today.
His choir background can be clearly heard in the soulfulness of his voice, an instrument that takes full force in my personal favourite of his, Pray for Me.
South African audiences will have a chance to bask in the glory of his voice this weekend when Hamilton brings his legacy career to the SunBet Arena in Tshwane on Saturday and Sunday for his Up Close and Personal show.
Saturday’s performance marks a milestone of his career - exactly 20 years since Comin' from Where I'm From’s release on 23 September 2003.
Anthony Hamilton was at Primedia on 20 September 2023 for the presser to promote his 'Up Close and Personal' show over Heritage Day weekend. Picture: 947/Kopano Mohlala
With Hamilton calling South Africa his “second home” on several occasions, it makes sense that he would choose to commemorate it here.
“The fans in South Africa really don’t take [the live experience] for granted – there’s no ego, there’s no agenda, it’s just straight love to love. They really take the moment in as pure and as powerful as they can – back [in the United States] you have a lot of different artists, so sometimes you can get a little spoiled.”
Though Comin’ From Where I’m From would mark his ascension as a solo artist, Hamilton’s career actually began ten years prior after he was signed with Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records in 1993.
It would then take years of professional setbacks before the R&B crooner finally broke out - something that would push many to lose hope.
However, for Hamilton, this marked a period for him where his experiences only enriched his artistry.
“I had to be seasoned. Now that I’m seasoned, the music tastes better, feels better, and sounds better. Life is what shapes you, and I had to go through a little bit of life to make it feel different.”
Hamilton added that it was the knowledge of his purpose that kept him firm in his belief that success would come in time.
“I knew that it was something that I had been created to do – I had to marinate in those moments when success wasn’t there - those were important, those were the ones where I got all of my texture, my sound, the heartache, the pain, the happiness.”
His remarkable patience paid off, with Charlene becoming an R&B essential, and a timeless hit that many bring up to this day as their favourite of his.
Anthony Hamilton with 702's Bongani Bingwa at Primedia on 20 September 2023 after receiving the South African platinum certification for his career-launching album, 'Coming from Where I'm From'. Picture: 947/Kopano Mohlala
A success like that could function as a double sword that could thrust one into mainstream success but could also box them into the expectation that the hit should define their sound.
But Hamilton, cognisant of the potential for musical typecasting, never allowed the success of Charlene to stifle his artistic growth, going on to put his mark on an array of different genres.
“I think the advantage I have is being welcomed by different music communities…. I’m not just in one box - because they will box you in – I’ve done hip-hop, country, rock, blues. [You have to] create different boxes so they don’t keep you in one.”
And perhaps this is what should define his legacy as not just a crooner able to tap into heartbreak and romantic honesty, but as an artist whose musical versatility is, quite frankly, iconic.
“I’m just me. I walk in as me [and] in every box I’m going to be me, that’s the important part.”
However, word to the wise, though grateful for its success and continued relevance, do not ask him about Charlene!
Limited tickets are still available for his Sunday show, which you can cop here.
Fans are encouraged to wear outfits that showcase their heritage in celebration of Heritage Day weekend.
Stream Hamilton’s latest single, Alone A Lot, a featured track with Louis York, below.