Every so often, an unforgettable voice comes along. One possessed by a deep-rooted passion that subtly powers a soulful, silky sound that will never go out of style. The voice in question: Tamia.
Three years after releasing her No. 1-debuting R&B album Love Life, Tamia is back with the sizzling single “Leave It Smokin’.” Her sultry vocals on the grown and sexy mid-tempo romp prompt all sorts of romantic possibilities as Tamia coaxes her love mate to “… Break every rule / Let’s give in to our temptations / let’s exceed our expectations / Leave it smokin’.”
Already a top 10 hit at urban AC, “Leave It Smokin’” sets the alarm for Passion Like Fire, Tamia’s seventh studio album due later this year from 21 Entertainment Group/Plus 1 Music Group/Entertainment One. The album in turn also marks another momentous occasion: the 20th anniversary of Tamia’s critically acclaimed, self-titled 1998 debut album. The album initiated a string of hits that the six-time Grammy Award nominee has steadily spun off along the way, including “You Put a Move on My Heart,” “Missing You” with Brandy, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan, “Spend My Life with You” with Eric Benét, “So into You,” “Stranger in My House” and “Into You” with Fabolous.
“I don’t know if there’s one thing I did in particular that’s responsible for why I’m still here,” says Tamia with a laugh. “I just know that I love music and it’s an integral part of my life. I’m so blessed after all these years to still be recording and performing. As an artist, it’s very important to stand behind the songs you put out there. And if you’re fortunate enough, you can sing those songs forever.”
The tracks comprising Passion Like Fire are no exception. The aforementioned “Leave it Smokin’” reunited Tamia with hitmaker Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Jazmine Sullivan, Miguel), who also produced the Grammy Award-nominated title track from the singer’s 2012 album Beautiful Surprise. In addition to Remi, Tamia reteamed with two more previous collaborators, Lil Ronnie (Tamia’s Love Life album, Mary J. Blige) and Grammy Award winner Shep Crawford (Tamia’s Hot 100 top 10 hit “Stranger in My House,” Deborah Cox).
Tamia also worked for the first time with Latin producer Andres Torres (Marc Anthony), who contributed the big ballad “Deeper.” Sequenced to mirror the various stages of a relationship, Passion Like Fire’s additional track standouts include the vibey, Sade-ish “Better,” mid-tempo ballad “Stay” and potential 2018 wedding song “Today I Do.”
“I really wanted the music and its melodies to speak first,” says Tamia of Passion Like Fire, which she co-wrote and recorded in Atlanta, Orlando and Miami over a two-month period. “I just started writing and then recorded the songs that felt good and spoke to me. I never have a particular focus when I’m creating an album other than one thing—that I just love love.”
Among the first to fall in love with Tamia’s voice was celebrated music producer Quincy Jones. He introduced U.S. audiences to the Canadian-born songstress via two tracks on his 1995 album Q’s Jook Joint: the singer’s breakthrough hit “You Put a Move on My Heart” and “Slow Jams,” which also featured Jones, Babyface, Portrait and Barry White. Both tunes, as well as her guest stint on “Missing You” from the Set It Off film soundtrack, netted Tamia her first three Grammy nominations for best female R&B vocal performance, best performance by a duo or group with vocals and best pop collaboration with vocals, respectively. And all before she released her self-title debut album in 1998. Tamia added a No. 1 R&B/top 10 pop hit to her catalog a year later when her duet with Benét on his single “Spend My Life with You”—which also garnered her a fourth Grammy nod. Since then, in addition to her aforementioned hits, Tamia has recorded five studio albums: A Nu Day, More, Between Friends, Beautiful Surprise and Love Life. While Beautiful Surprise brought her total Grammy nominations up to six including best R&B album, Love Life’s No. 1 debut on Billboard’s R&B tally became her highest-charting album to date.
A savvy business entrepreneur as well, Tamia founded Plus 1 Music Group, which has successfully released three of her albums, Between Friends, Greatest Hits and Beautiful Surprise and is teaming with Entertainment One (eOne) for the upcoming Passion Like Fire. A mom to two daughters, Tamia and husband/NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill remain fervent advocates for The Tamia & Grant Hill Foundation. Now in its 19th year, the foundation supports various charities dedicated to helping children and families.
Tamia was six years old when she started singing in church and first witnessed music’s powerful connection with people. It’s that connection which keeps Tamia going back into the studio and on concert stages.
“I never wanted to stay stagnant or be satisfied with the way things are,” reflects Tamia. “I just try to stay consistent in the quality of work that I put out. When I look out from the stage and see people smiling or crying or when they tell me stories about what my songs have done for them … that’s what my music is all about.”