One crooner the 54-year-old "Sweet Love" songstress feels is "gifted beyond measure" is Chris Brown. "He's an amazing talent," she tells The BoomBox. "That's all I could take from him because that's all I'm entitled to, is his artistry. I take it and I embrace it."
Baker applauds the Fortune creator's ability to succeed professionally while dealing with personal trials and tribulations under public scrutiny.
"I also embrace his, whatever it is that has allowed these young ones to endure what they endure publicly, and to still be able to present themselves to us," she admits. "Historically, in my generation, all of my heroes and heroines have had issues and problems. We all do. Chris Brown is brilliant. That cat is crazy brilliant and I wish him the best."
Twenty nine years ago, when Baker debuted her first album, The Songstress, in 1983, camera-wielding paparazzi and gossip blogs weren't prevalent, giving pop stars and the like more privacy when dealing with their own personal demons. But the Detroit-raised singer says the big difference she finds between then and now is the constant struggle to protect her livelihood.
"Time has nothing to do with the gifts that the gods give you; it's what you do," she states. "I think what is challenging right now and what I've come into, is the ability with this push-button and digital and 'edit this' and 'touch that' [era], I've had to protect live vocals that I do from producers and people.
"They want to take it into the realm of Pro Tools and go, 'Oh, I'm gonna slice this bar measure... slice your vocal and edit it,' and it's like, 'No darling. I sang this. This is from my heart and this is my performance.'"
She feels this trumps other challenges artists may face. "That's the thing that an artist has to protect," Baker continues. "Their right to give their perspective to you without 13 people putting their hands on it and editing it. I'm always just trying to sing a song. All the time!"
With seven albums in her catalog and one on the way, the eight-time Grammy Award-winning chanteuse has kept that mindset from the start. A passion to express herself through song lead her not to seek stardom but to share her voice wherever she could, including a home for the deceased.
"People just stand around going, 'I wanna, I wanna,' when what you really mean, a lot of times is, 'I wanna be a star,'" Baker explains. "But if you wanna sing, go sing! I used to sing at funeral homes for families that didn't have a vocalist. I didn't get paid. I needed to sing.
"What the angels do, when they see you doing what they've sprinkled on you, they help you. They may not give you money all the time, but you know, I never sought anything a day in my life. All I ever did is sing. Somebody was there [saying], 'You want another gig? There's this band.' [And I'd say], 'I'll be there. What time? Where?' It wasn't easy; I had to have another job. So the challenge is relative to what you want."
For Anita Baker, that's the reward.
Only Forever, her forthcoming LP featuring the single "Lonely," is due Oct. 23.
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