A Cruel Lesson from Luther Vandross on How to Stand Out and Create Sensational Impact


Before I show you the cruelty of Mr Luther Ronzoni Vandross, I would like to show you my reverence for this musical genius that left us with phenomenal music.

In many parts of the world, Luther’s music is a fabric of people’s memories. Today still we reminisce and celebrate with his music.

From an in demand backup singer for the likes of Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie and Dian Ross; he came to the fore to be a prevailing solo artist, who dominated while singing like a backup singer; beating many wonderful high-pitched musicians.

The ‘The Velvet Voice’ they called him.

Singing like a backup up singer and selling over 35 million records, to winning four Grammys. How about that!!

He had rhythm for music. He would salivate different tunes in one song – ‘Too Proud to Beg’.

Like Whitney Houston starts off a song by singing the context and in the later parts going sultry and groovy; Luther adds a sparkling twist to his format. In the later parts of his songs, he adds these sultry ululating sharp-harmonies – in a celebratory and/or mocking kind of way. They sometimes have a venomous sweet tease.

He rejuvenates in every song; even if it is a song about not wanting someone back – ‘Love Don’t Love You Anymore’, or a song lobbying a girl to leave the boyfriend for him – ‘I Can Make it Better’.

I think ‘Love Don’t Love You Anymore’ is a cruel breakup song. In his fashion, in the later parts, he rejuvenates his not wanting this girl anymore. He goes playground mocking style: “love don’t love you love you baby, love don’t want you want you baby”. I laugh whenever I think of this part.

The album ‘Your Secret Love’ – which this analysis is grounded on, is my favourite Luther release. It is a lethal album. Every song paints its motion intemperately. A lot of people do not notice his danger because of his velvet voice. Please watch him towards the end of his songs, he is lethal.

It has a song for a lot of situations:

  • A song for a fed up secret lover; or side chick/guy as we call it nowadays (Your Secret Love). Is it just me, or does ‘side chick’ sound less dignified than mistress?
  • Being too proud to beg for love (Too Proud To Beg).
  • Breaking up (Love Don’t Love You Anymore).
  • Lobbying to take someone’s lover (I Can Make It Better).
  • Being madly in love (Crazy in Love).

The cruelty of Luther Vandorss

No, it is not when he was in South Africa and pushed a publicist into a pool for not organising KFC for him.

For a long time as a writer, I have been subtle and too careful not to offend anyone who could be on the opposite side of my views. You catch average flies in this way.

Because of Luther’s backup-singing-like voice – velvet voice as others call it, people do not readily get the brutality in his lyrics. Brutality is a good way, and a bad way in a fitting situation.

When he sings of being madly in love, he sings with utmost conviction. Again, when he lobbies a girl to ditch her current lover for his arms – ‘I Can Make it Better’, he uses the same brute force.

Let’s look at the lyrics to ‘I Can Make it Better’: “Put him away, baby”; “Tell him his game is over”; “And then when you cry, I will be your shoulder”; “Whatever you are going through – I can make it better”; “Tell him you want to be free, you want to love me”; “For every one time he gives you pleasure, ten times he makes you want to cry”; How in the world can you get any sleep! Everyone knows the way that he creeps”; “It’s time for the question baby. What has he done for you lately?”

Luther goes for the jugular.

He also rallies his band to fight his battles. On ‘Nobody to Love’, which is song about a lover-less lady (dololo bae) who – like most single women do – claims that she is lonely, a lot of men want her, but has not one to love. In the later parts he goes “I don’t want them saying she is the one with no body to love”, and his band sarcastically follows with statement that is against what he just sang – “she is the one with nobody to love.”

And then on ‘Crazy Love’ he is on the side of begging for a second chance. He does it so eloquently and convincingly, with utmost humility.

Above I said ‘Love Don’t Love You Anymore’ is a cruel breakup song. It is superbly artistic how Luther is able to switch and apply himself totally to different songs.

Immerse yourself on the side of whatever you are doing, like there is nothing else like it in the world. Two hours later when you are doing another thing, surrender to it absolutely and singularly like Monique Bingham.

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Luther shows us that, to strike a chord with people, to cause an impact, to standout, you ought to totally be on the side of whatever you are offering. Don’t be apologetic about it.

I am not talking of being crude and virtue-less in your dealings; I refer to when you create something, whether it is a book, a song, or whatever product.

Like when Arie Gold insults, he insults absolutely; and when he praises – he does so with might. He is the kind of guy who would say to an actor he wishes to sign to his agency, that their acting is so good that it makes Al Pacino’s look like Gilbert Gottfried’s.

I am sure the creators of Entourage knew that if they make Arie to be this crude, blunt, selfishly-inappropriate and salesy, he would stand out as he did.

Don’t be rude, unless you are creating.