If you thought you had Frankie J pegged, think again. The charismatic R&B crooner is about to pitch a few curve balls.
"I've been working with a few different people," the Tijuana, Mexico-born singer said. "I'm actually on my way to Atlanta to do a song with JC Chasez for his new record. I know his manager through a mutual friend. He told me JC was working on some new stuff, so we met up for lunch one day to talk business and we just clicked."
The as-yet-untitled track will be penned by Frankie, Chasez and songwriter Sean Garrett (Aaliyah, Usher, Ricky Martin), and it will be produced by Timbaland, who has already laid down several tracks for Chasez's sophomore solo effort due out next year (see "JC Chasez Promises Next Solo Outing Will Be Less Schizophrenic").
"I've heard some of JC's stuff and it's very different," Frankie said. "He's not really following the sound of what's popular on radio today, which is good because he's not trying to be anyone else. He just wants to be JC. I'm not sure what to expect when I go in, but I know I'm looking forward to what comes out of it."
Frankie also recorded recently with another Timbaland protégé, Dirty South rapper Bubba Sparxxx, who is working on the follow-up to his 2003 LP, Deliverance. The track "Run Away" was produced by Basement Beats, the same crew that garnered hits for Nelly and his St. Lunatics.
"It was funny working with Bubba," Frankie recalled. "That guy is just crazy. The thing about him is that he doesn't write down his lyrics. It's all in his mind. It's a lot like what JC does in the studio, too. He just records it off the top of his head, so it was interesting to watch him flow."
A self-professed stickler when it comes to recording, Frankie says he's bitten the bullet and learned to be more of a free spirit behind the mic. "Sometimes I'll find myself just going into the booth, writing the melody, and building on whatever lyrics pop up. I've never done that before, but now I'm seeing that the best magic happens that way."
Finally, Frankie teamed up with Play N Skillz for "Are You Still Alone," a hip-hop-tinged track featured on the boys' new album, The Process. According to Frankie, the song's basically about hollering at your girl.
"It's about a guy who's been looking to hook up with this woman for a long time and he wonders if she's still available. Because if she is, then let's link up," the singer said. "It says, 'I'm not a player, but if you're alone, let's do something.' "
While Frankie has a way to go before he starts work on his next English-language LP, he already has several beatmakers in mind. "Jermaine Dupri is at the top of my list," he said. "What he's done with Usher, Mariah, Jagged Edge — it's brilliant. He really studies you as a performer, and he knows his music and knows what he's doing. He's a hitmaker."
He also wants to recruit Pharrell ("simply for his uniqueness") and of course the man of the moment, Kanye West. "Anything that man touches turns to gold," Frankie said. "I'm not trying to jump on the bandwagon of people saying he's the 'it' thing right now, but he's very talented. I love what he did with Adam from Maroon 5."
Frankie has also been putting the finishing touches on his still-untitled Spanish album due January 10. It will include four English-to-Español translations off his latest album, The One, including "Obsession (No Es Amor)." "How to Deal," "Without You," and his current single, "More Than Words," a remake of Extreme's early-'90s hit (see "Frankie J Keeps The Buzz Alive With Extreme Cover Version"). The rest of the LP will contain fresh material, including a cover of LL Cool J's old-school jam "Around the Way Girl," featuring New York-based Latino rappers the Barrio Boyzz.