Release date: November 2010
Second Chance is the fifth studio album from American R&B singer Eldra Patrick "El" DeBarge, released on November 30, 2010, through Interscope Records.
"Making this album, I felt like I was seeing a flower or feeling the sun shine for the first time," says El DeBarge. "I feel like a brand new artist, like I just came out to Hollywood from Grand Rapids, Michigan and I'm looking for a record contract—and I'm just as hungry as I was when I started out."
With Second Chance, one of R&B's most distinctive and celebrated voices returns to the spotlight after more than a decade and a half away. The album—which features the work of such legendary producer/songwriters as Babyface and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis alongside tracks by new hitmakers including Mike City, the Avila Brothers and Michael Angelo—tells the story of DeBarge's redemption following a period of personal turmoil. The last new music he released was 1994's acclaimed Heart, Mind, and Soul. As he returned to the studio after a turbulent time that ultimately led to his incarceration, though, DeBarge discovered that his songwriting touch had not left him. "These songs are my spiritual memoir, my mental DNA," he says, "and they came to me on a need-to-know basis from the Lord. I gather it all up at that moment and try to process and structure it into a three- or four-minute song—and that's not easy to do. These are great big, huge experiences, from personal and business relationships to the house that was lost or the prison sentence served."
The song that initially kicked off the project was "Format," which later had a guest verse added by 50 Cent. DeBarge says that the song "really represents where I'm at musically—not changing who I am or my style of writing, just switching up the format, taking a different route to reach the same destination."
But it was when he began recording the title track that Second Chance took on its full meaning. "It was a mystery how this album was going to evolve," he says. "But the minute I stepped to the microphone to sing that song, I started crying. It took me a while just to get through the first line. I knew then that this whole album would be full of emotion and conviction. That song opened me up, and it was never the same."
Though DeBarge was excited to work with young writers and producers who grew up listening to his music, it was a special thrill going back into the studio with some of R&B's greatest masterminds. "Babyface, Jimmy and Terry—they're not just my musical peers, but qualified people who understand me as an artist and as a person," he says. "I had heard about Mike City and Michael Angelo, I knew about their talent, but these people are on a whole other level. The chemistry is so different, it's just great."
In the great DeBarge tradition, most of Second Chance is concerned with matters of the heart, but El's own tribulations and lessons echo through many of the songs. "Joyful," he says, is about "embracing the struggle, not trying to resist, and knowing that you're going to win—not just thinking that you can win, but that you will." The impassioned "Sad Song," produced by Christian "Davis" Stalnecker, resonates with "what I've gone through in relationships, some of my heartbreak," according to DeBarge. "Things I've lost to drugs, relationships damaged, and also everyday situations, just somebody treating somebody wrong.
"I'm forthcoming on this album," he continues, "and I take the blame where I need to, but I also show that I'm bigger than the struggle, it's not bigger than me. I learned to slip forward, not backward. I learned from my mistakes, and I'll never go down that road again."
With this extraordinary set of songs, El DeBarge begins a new chapter in an uncommon life—accepting responsibility and looking ahead, with a new appreciation for his gifts and talents. For a man who reached stardom at a young age, he exudes maturity, in his words and his art, as he demonstrates why everyone deserves a second chance.