NEW YORK — Call Lyfe Jennings old-fashioned.
The R&B singer believes in touring to break his records, working through relationship troubles instead of divorcing and teenage abstinence. You would think he was living in 1956 instead of 2006.
Jennings — who's been on the road since dropping his platinum-selling debut, Lyfe 268-192, in 2004 — discovered that his latest hit, "S.E.X.," had become a crowd favorite for its strong stance against underage promiscuity. The support led the singer to select the unconventional track as a single.
"The feedback for that song has been one of the greatest experiences [of my career]," Jennings said during a break from Video Music Awards activities (see "Underdog Night At The VMAs: Panic, Gnarls, Blunt, Chamillionaire Win Big"). "Because it's not like people are coming up to me like, 'I love the song because of the melody.' They come up to me and say, 'That song made me want to keep my virginity.' Or if they aren't a virgin, they say it makes them want to save what they have for somebody who honestly wants what they have. And I think that's the greatest thing, to have a person who can love the melody but also love the message."
The singer's new album, The Phoenix, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard albums chart last month (see "Back To Basics Takes Christina Aguilera Back To Billboard's #1"), finds Jennings ruefully weighing such topics as those in "S.E.X.," as well as the ups and downs of breaking up — and not breaking up. Jennings revealed his next single will be the Al Green-channeling "Let's Stay Together," which explores the challenges of sticking with a relationship rather than parting.
In his throaty vocals, Jennings sings: "Is it really worth salvaging?/ How do we go about deciding?/ Do we add up all the good times and divide it?/ Or do we ignore the numbers and vow right now to never take asunder?"
Jennings said he will film a video for "Let's Stay Together" later this month, hopefully with director Benny Boom at the helm. Though there is no treatment yet, Jennings said with his busy touring schedule — including dates in Memphis; Washington, D.C.; and New York — he has no choice but to fit the video shoot in this month. He's finalizing a fall tour, which is set to launch in October and run through the rest of the year.
Though the singer now has a baby boy, Phoenix (the album is named after him), he said he's still looking forward to hitting the road. The singer credits his touring with developing his fanbase and said it's still a necessity at this point in his career.
"I know I'm not a household name yet — I haven't really had a big single on the radio," Jennings said. "So I had to be out among the people and break the records on my own. I love being on the road — I have the greatest experience on tour. I have a newborn son, so I definitely can't get down like I used to. But when I'm out there, it's no-nonsense."