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How My First Loss Became My Greatest Lesson: A Guest Editorial by Lloyd

"It is wiser to be defined by what you are than to try and change or run away from it to be something you are not."

Lloyd is a Platinum-selling American R&B singer-songwriter whose musical resume includes hit singles such as "You," "Get It Shawty," "Girls Around the World" and "Lay It Down." Lloyd's latest album, Tru, his first full-length release since 2011's King of Hearts, is available now on-demand or for digital purchase.

Creativity, at its very essence, is the true expression and representation of the human heart and spirit. Therefore, the moment you allow the brain to interfere with your heart’s work, you will destroy every chance you have at achieving your best work. 

Unlike, say, as in matters of love and intimacy, where both must be present to have a passionate and viable long-term relationship, visual and sonic artwork are best when the two are completely separated.

I have learned this lesson from my own personal experience. In 2004, I released my debut album, Southside, to a great reception. Three years later, in 2007, I released my sophomore album, Street Love, which was the first album created through my own production company. This was truly my first album as a producer in which I was granted power to create and release whatever music I chose. The first single, “You,” would go on to break Billboard chart records and became my first number one chart-topping hit. I felt a beautiful pressure all around me; this heightened sense of importance and responsibility grew more intense by the day. 

What do I do next? How do I take my career to the next level? This is a feeling every artist surely faces when following up such a defining moment of their career.

A creative battle ensued between me and my then-mentor, as we each envisioned different directions moving forward. I campaigned vehemently and was eventually given the green light to release my follow-up single, “Get It Shawty.” The record gained even more success, catapulting me onto a world stage unfamiliar to me before. Now I had the hits, the accolades, and the respect that I was seeking from my peers. My album was on its way to Platinum status, and I felt releasing a third single (“Player's Prayer”) would be ideal. However, my label, Universal Motown, had a better idea: make another album.

As they say in music, I had the building behind me. I had the full support of the staff and near unlimited funds at my disposal. During the creation of my third project, Lessons in Love, countless producers and songwriters were flown in from all over the country to assist me. I embraced this change of familiarity, breaking the mold of keeping my music in the hands of a small circle of longtime friends, in hopes of creating a more “global” body of work. It was also the first time I produced a song of my own, the very last song recorded during the album process titled, “Girls Around the World.” 

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The first time I played my new music for the label, I felt in my heart that “Girls” would be a no-brainer. However, I’d never participated in music production before and was uncertain of my abilities in comparison to the other, more seasoned producers involved. Everyone in the meeting actually loved “Girls,” and immediately felt it should be the leading single. Then I played them one more song I’d recorded. A song that was more “pop” radio-friendly. Everyone in the meeting started going crazy! They said: “This is the one!”

I fell into the hype, despite what my heart was telling me, for I also believed that any song of mine could be a hit, as every song I’d ever released up to that point was successful. I pulled out all the stops. I got one of the hottest rappers as a feature, paid loads of money for the video (from a director who never directed a black music video before), and hired a legendary guru to choreograph the movement. I spent about a million dollars on this song! 

Almost as soon as I released it, the record bombed. Neither Rhythmic nor Top 40 radio liked it, and certainly not my fans. They’d felt I’d abandoned my sound to chase something else. And they were right. I had tried to manipulate the feeling, to be something I wasn’t, all in the name of success. 

The only choice I had was to scrap the campaign and run toward “Girls” like Usain Bolt. It was in that moment that I had no choice but to go with what was in my heart all along, with what felt right. So I released “Girls,” begged the label to let Hype Williams direct it, and it saved my album—and maybe even my career—because I’d learned a valuable lesson about music, both as an artist and a fan.

The only thing that matters is the FEELING and the synergy created with those whom you work with best. There’s is no amount of money or marketing that can make a terrible song great. The moment you take the soul out of it, it is just an empty shell of a sentiment, rendering it disposable. 

I also learned that we each bring something unique to art, and it is wiser to be defined by what you are than to try and change or run away from it to be something you are not. Growth doesn’t necessarily mean abandonment, and you should catch your own wave rather than to try and ride another's. I may have been too young to even realize I’d already had my own wave, but since then I have vowed to never ever follow the trend again, to never ever try and outsmart the music for the business. This is how my first loss became my greatest lesson.

Respect the concept of synergy. Follow the energy. Listen to your heart. Lead with your spirit. And even then, you just might get lucky enough to make some noise.

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