Thirteen years since her debut, and five albums in, the soul R&B singer made one thing clear: She is no longer the brokenhearted girl.
Vivian Green has long hopped off the “Emotional Rollercoaster” that propelled her to stardom in 2002.
Her fifth album, VIVID, is soulful feel good music. The album’s lead single, “Get Right Back To My Baby,” which samples the Frankie Beverly and Maze classic, “Before I Let Go,” is uptempo. “I’m Not Broken” is closer to the ballad sound her fans have grown to love while “All I Want Is You” featuring Raheem Devaughn is sexy. VIVID is what happens when Green, 36, links up with producer Kwamé (Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Talib Kweli) to give fans something different than the sad love songs of her past.
ESSENCE caught up with the Philly native to find out what she’s been doing in the three years since her last album, what it’s like to be the mother of a special needs son and if marriage is in her near future. Thirteen years since her debut, and five albums in, the soul R&B singer made one thing clear: She is no longer the brokenhearted girl.
What's the meaning behind this album’s name, VIVID?
VIVID shares the same roots as my name — Vivi. It’s the root of a lot of words and it means full of life, zeal, vibrant, light. I think that’s how the album feels when I listen to it. So when Kwamé and I were speaking of titles, that one seemed really cool with the play on words with my name and it totally defines the album.
This is your first album in three years. What were you doing during your hiatus?
I took my time with this one. Usually I always feel like I’m up against the clock and we didn’t want to do that. This time we wanted to take our time, be patient, and think about the body of work we were making. [We thought] about the songs and the whole album as a cohesive full body of work. When you rush things you just can’t give it that same amount of attention. You can’t listen to it over and over and over again. [We were able to] for months, for a year [to say], ‘Ok, no, let’s change that; let’s change this out; let’s do a new song.’ We were really able to put together a body of work that’s tailor made because of the amount of time we were able to put in. I think that’s the reason why that it came out the way it did. I really love it and the response has really been positive online. People are choosing all these different songs that are their favorites, but then they’ll say, “But I like the whole thing.” I’m just grateful that people are receiving it the way we wanted them to.
This album is more uptempo, which is different from what your fans are used to from you. What inspired you to switch up the sound?
I felt like I needed a change and Kwamé felt like I needed a change as well. I don’t like being defined just by ballads because it’s not a true reflection of who I am; it’s a reflection of what I went through in a particular time, but it’s not a reflection of my personality, of who I am, or how I move. So we sat down and really decided we wanted to show people different sides and different facets of me. Not just the sad girl who got her heart broken 10 years ago. It’s just not me. That’s why there’s an energy to it because that’s me, and I never showed that before and we really wanted to do that.
But you’ve said working with Kwamé was challenging because you didn’t know if your fans would be receptive to change.
No, absolutely. That’s 100% correct. He had this vision and it took a while for me to get it because I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh she’s different, she’s changing into an artist that doesn’t do what they did on their first album.’ So I was worried about that, but I did understand where he was coming from. I think I just had to get up the guts to do what he was saying and what I believed in my heart he was right.
What’s been one of the hardest things to navigate in the music industry in your 13-year career?
Well, the hardest thing for me was taking my first break between my first album and the Beautiful album that followed five years later. People always talk about the hiatus from The Green Room to this album, but between my second and third album, that was the hardest. It was so difficult to come back because by that time the industry was just different. Social media had taken over the world, and I had to really get acclimated to the new music business and it definitely wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy at all. And a lot of people didn’t know about those albums, it was so under the radar. And when you’re away from the radio for five years so much changed. There are new artists out and you kind of gotta find your place again. So that was the hardest thing for me to do. I just think I’m the kind of girl who can work through anything so I said I’m just going to keep trying again and trying again. And here I am with VIVID. I don’t think you can be in the industry for over 10 years and not deal with that at some point in your career because it’s always changing.
Just switching gears a little bit, you have an 11- year-old son, Jordan, who has special needs.
Being Jordan’s mom is the bigger part of my life, and my career is the smaller part. It’s been 11 years now, that’s just part of my life, it’s just a part of my journey; it doesn’t change me.
Are you an advocate for parents with children of special needs?
Yeah, I am in the process of creating a PSA called “I am Different, I Am Human.” It’s going to be a commercial. The “I am Different, I am Human” campaign pretty much is just to build awareness of the 57 million people who have special needs or a disability, and for 11 years being Jordan’s mother, the awareness is not where it needs to be. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into Target or the mall and children have reactions to Jordan because its something they don’t know. And I think parents of preschool age kids need to talk about the world that’s different than them. I’m not necessarily offended by the children that have reacted to my son one way or another, but it needs to stop. We need to make them aware that every kid is not like them, not every adult is like them. Everyone is different. I think those raw reactions would be different if it was being taught. I’m excited about doing it. I’m thinking about putting it on YouTube and then of course other outlets like my website.
What does love look like for you now?
Love is great. I feel like we as women, as little girls, have these ideals on what love is at a very young age. And when we come of age, and it doesn’t reach those expectations, our whole world ends because we look to men to be what they were never raised to be. We’ve been looking at Disney movies and princess movies waiting for our Prince Charming and they’re out doing the complete opposite. They’re not raised for the most part to look forward to marriage. That’s the furthest thing from their minds.
Now I have a very realistic look on love and what it is and how it works and what kind of person is best for me to love because for most, we get into relationships and we want it to work so badly we miss the point that this is not the right guy for you. I spent almost four years being single because I was getting to know myself and it was the best time. I think being single is good because it’s a time to reflect and think about who you attracted in the past that wasn’t good for you. I think people fear being alone and being lonely, but people will learn from it.
Are marriage and more children in the future for you?
Probably neither. I do not want any more children, and a lot of that is privy to the experience that I’ve had [with Jordan]. I love my child, I love him with every bone, and I just think he’s the most amazing child I’ve ever seen. So it’s not like I don’t want another Jordan, but I know he has to go through struggles that I’ll never have to go through.
I just don’t know if that’s something for me. I think the ideals of marriage ruin relationships and I just don’t want to be that girl who does that. Marriage scares me a little bit, but I still believe in a committed relationship. I’m in one right now, but I don’t think marriage is it. We’ve talked about it, that’s something partners talk about. All these things I say to you I’ve said to him, but he just wants me to be comfortable with where we ar. But if I wanted to marry him tomorrow he would, or not, if I didn’t. So we’re in that place I’m fine because it’s not like I’m with someone who doesn’t want to marry me. I’m with someone who loves me no matter what. So no matter if we do it, he loves me.
Vivian Green’s album VIVID is out now.