Trey Songz has matured into a sexiness that can’t be disputed.  Songz sang from the heart, throbbing beats and pulsating movements entranced the mostly female audience at the Essence Summer Music Festival. The shirt came off, of course, to reveal a tight rippled, sweaty body in a crisp tee. Songz  teased the crowd with favorite hits and rolled out his new single “Dive In.”

“I’ll just keep my head down… I’m ’bout to dive in, go under just for you.” There were sure to be “Heart Attacks,” after that 30-minute set.

But if a cool down was needed, D’Angelo brought the ice. In a word, his show was disappointing.

D'Angelo in concert at the 2012 Essence Music Festival. Photo: Chris Mitchell.

To be frank, some artists should never play large audiences. These artists may be talented singers or songwriters, but they do not have the performance skill set to mesmerize a venue the size of the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Artists who have been out of the game for quite some time should not make their comeback at an internationally renowned music festival filled with African American music lovers. Also, artists who ignore their fans’ wishes to play that hit song; artists who defy what their stylist wants them to wear; artists who have been gone for more than a decade and are too high-strung to reacquaint the old fans and introduce themselves to the new ones, should not play the Essence Music Festival.

In other words, fans have charged, overwhelmingly, that D’Angelo, should not have performed at the Essence Music Festival. Your fans are disappointed, not by your talent or skill, but by your arrogant decision to debut your new songs without performing the biggest hits.

Okay, not to be too harsh, but let’s just reflect on what makes a hit record a hit: A songwriter hears a melody and writes a song. You perform the song, and the label releases it into the world for your fans to accept or reject it. Your fans have accepted certain songs and have invested in those songs by buying them, downloading them, and/or purchasing concert tickets to see you perform them.  For you, those accepted songs have propelled your career, but for your fans, those songs are keepers of memories, memories that extend far beyond you, sir. Thus, when a fan asks for a specific megahit song to be performed, Brown Sugar, for instance, it is for them to replay those memories and of course sing along with you.

You can’t return from a 12-year hiatus marred with arrests and weight gain (and losses) and not perform the songs that have made you famous. The end result? Your loyal fans were cheated, those young people who don’t know you were confused; and the music lovers around the world are now giving you the side-eye as they ponder, Does D’Angelo Still Have It?

–Photos: Chris Mitchell

Deputy Editor, Rolling Out