Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Kelefa Sanneh on Tonex

"Tonéx's eccentric style and vertiginous high notes helped make him one of the most acclaimed praise singers of the past decade and, for a time, one of the most successful. He had a certain hip-hop swagger, and he cultivated a coy, teasing sensibility; he had the status of a sex symbol, while portraying himself as a righteous alternative to the decadent mainstream. One early song, 'Waiting,' sounded a lot like a breathy slow jam, though the lyrics were about 'waiting' for divine guidance. ('Now that I listen back to it, I cannot believe I got away with it,' he says, chuckling proudly. 'That's where I got a lot of my female fan base from.') In his music videos, he flirted with raunchiness: he couldn't thrust his hips, but he could undulate his torso and snap his knees open and shut. A boisterous live double CD, 'Out the Box,' won him six trophies at the 2005 Stellar Awards, gospel's most prestigious event, and sold more than half a million copies. His success was proof of the continued popularity of gospel music, a vibrant genre with its own infrastructure and star-making machinery. … But then Tonéx fell from grace — or, depending on your point of view, was pushed. …" ("Revelations: A Gospel Singer Comes Out," New Yorker, 2/8/10).


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