On their upcoming Welcome to Nextasy, Next's lyrics will be as sexy as ever. But the three brothers who make up the R&B vocal group are broadening their musical range.
The album follows Rated Next their 1997 debut, whose top-10 hits "Butta Love" and "Too Close" were overtly sexual come-ons. The words on Welcome to Nextasy, due May 16, maintain the group's Barry White-style sexual stance, but this time the music will flirt with reggae ("Oh No No") and even opera, according to singer/songwriter Tweety.
"The songs are fresher than on [Rated Next,] because some of those songs went back to 1993, even though the album didn't come out until 1997," the 24-year-old Tweety said from the New York studio where Next are mixing the album.
The new songs include "Jerk," a tune about masturbating that features gangsta rapper 50 Cent, whose debut, Power of the Dollar, was released in October, and "Let's Make a Movie," which Tweety describes as "ghetto R&B, with tricky lyrics."
"My Everything," a mid-tempo pop song, includes such lines as, "I wouldn't die for you/ I'd rather live to love you/ You can take my arms/ I'd still find ways to touch you/ You can take my legs/ I'd still run to your rescue."
Looking To Score On Charts
Welcome to Nextasy was executive produced by Naughty by Nature's KayGee and Arista Records founder Clive Davis, the duo who performed the same role on Rated Next.
"[Davis] made sure the album has the definite top-40 or [Billboard] Hot 100 sound," KayGee (born Keir Gist) said from his New Jersey home. Among Davis' contributions, according to KayGee, was encouraging Next to record "What You're Not Getting at Home." That song was written by Diane Warren, whose work has been recorded by dozens of artists, including rockers Aerosmith, country singer Trisha Yearwood and R&B diva Mary J. Blige.
After they cut a version of the Warren song, Davis had the group rework it. "It was more of a ballad," KayGee said, "and we [changed] it to be more midtempo, to fit more with the character of Next's sound."
All three brothers Tweety (born Raphael Shawan); R.L., 22; and T-Low, 26 write songs. (R.L. and T-Low's born names were unavailable.) All three take turns singing lead. They grew up in Minneapolis, where they sang in gospel choirs before they set out to make secular R&B. T-Low's godmother, Sounds of Blackness lead singer Ann Nesby, let the boys rehearse in her home.
The trio's family and friends were surprised to hear them singing lyrics associated more with the bedroom than the church.
"They were pretty shocked," Tweety said. "My mother heard the songs and said, 'Man, I can't believe you're doing that.' "
Light Moments On Record
Tweety said he hoped his fans realized the trio were about more than getting it on. He said what's on Next's records was only a part of who they were.
"You don't show people a fictitious version of who you are, but you have to act differently in different situations," he said. "It's like, if you drink, there are some places you know you better not drink. I wouldn't go on Nickelodeon and have somebody bring me a Miller, you know? You've got to keep it in reality."
Besides, Next don't take their musical come-ons too seriously. "We're laughing at these lines long before they're released," Tweety said.
Tweety pointed to an interlude on Welcome to Nextasy that begins with him moaning a breathy "Oooh, damn!" while soft music plays in the background. He then proceeds to chat up his woman in pig Latin.
"We use it like it was sexy, like I'm speaking French or something," Tweety said. He vows to bring back what he termed a forgotten language by writing more songs in pig Latin.
In addition to working on the new album, the members of Next have been busy with other interests. R.L. dueted with Deborah Cox on the 1999 single "We Can't Be Friends." Tweety has been auditioning for acting roles.
"I always wanted to act and to model, even before I got into music," he said. "The fact that our music is popular has helped me get to do that." He said he's auditioned for a television pilot called "Soul Food," and for a film called "Urban Law," which he said would feature Whoopi Goldberg.
The group has no definite touring plans, but the members expect to tour after the album's release.
"We're just fiendin' to get out there," Tweety said.