Question for you music enthusiasts – how many American Idol alums went on to establish successful R&B careers?
Jennifer Hudson is probably the gold standard, but her success is probably more related to film roles than record sales. Fantasia and Ruben Studdard have fared relatively well, with Jordin Sparks shortly behind.
That’s a pretty shallow pool when you think about all the talent that has gone through that show.
Back in my day, Star Search was our American Idol, and even the lesser-known acts carved out impressive careers. One such success story is Shanice, the dream of many a young man. Remember her?
Shanice Wilson’s road to stardom was a bit indirect. Her mother and aunt moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to pursue their own music careers. When that didn’t work out, they went with Plan B – Shanice herself. Eight-year-old Shanice landed a KFC commercial, a role on Kids Incorporated and then wowed America on Star Search. After Star Search, she received her first record deal.
In 1987, Shanice released her debut, Discovery, and judging by her album cover, I think she discovered her scalp is dry. Why is she digging in her hair on her album cover?
The album was moderately successful, most notably producing “(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance.” You know it’s an ’80s music video because people are jumping around in a dark, wet alley with weird yellow lights. It made a strong showing on the R&B charts and was the only single to cross over to the pop charts. Like its predecessor, “No 1/2 Stepping” climbed to No. 6 on the R&B charts. The slow cut “The Way You Love Me” and upbeat hater anthem “I’ll Bet She Has a Boyfriend” didn’t fare as well, but overall it was a solid outing.
The ’90s were a kindler, gentler time for artists. These days, if a highly-touted artist didn’t drop a smash hit on their first outing, their career is practically over. Shanice was a bit of a late bloomer and thankfully was given time to grow. Shanice dropped Inner Child in 1991 (and by the looks of it, she’s STILL having scalp issues – she sure has an itchy head). Here’s where she finally hit big.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s a safe bet that you know this song:
“I Love Your Smile” was a SMASH, a No. 1 R&B hit and peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts. Unfortunately it’s another one of those songs on the Eddie B. “No Play” list. I’m sure you’ve heard of the government’s “No Fly” list – folks who aren’t permitted on planes. Well, my No Play list are for those songs that I just can’t listen to anymore. Just ask Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” and Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” I swear I heard “I Love Your Smile” roughly 50 zillion times in November 1991 alone. Good lord.
Also on that album, she teamed up with Johnny Gill on the stunningly beautiful “Silent Prayer,” showcasing her very underrated vocals. It was another crossover success. “I’m Crying” and “Lovin’ You,” a cover of Minnie Riperton’s hit, were just as strong, ushering Inner Child to gold status. It’s a pretty amazing album (even though I still skip “I Love Your Smile”).
Around this time, soundtracks were big business and Shanice wasted no time getting in on that action. She contributed “Don’t Wanna Love You” to the Boomerang soundtrack, “It’s For You” on The Meteor Man soundtrack and most notably, “Saving Forever For You” on the Beverly Hills, 90210 soundtrack. That one climbed to No. 4 on the pop charts.
In 1994 Shanice returned with 21…Ways to Grow and apparently got some moisturizer for her scalp. “Somewhere” was a modest hit but sounded a bit too much like a Janet clone. And for some reason, they shot the video in the SAME dark alley where her very first video occurred. What’s with the obsession with wet alleys and yellow lighting? “Turn Down The Lights” had that Janet vibe too, but it’s not as flagrant. Overall, the set fell short of expectations.
1999 proved to be a bit of a revival for Shanice. The first single from her self-titled fourth album “When I Close My Eyes” was a surprise hit. The video features the weirdest dancing I’ve ever seen – she looks like a Power Ranger doing her “It’s Morphin’ Time!” moves. But you can’t deny the song’s success, reaching No. 4 on the R&B charts. “You Need A Man” and my favorite Shanice track, “Yesterday,” followed and Shanice had yet another gold plaque for her wall.
Following this album, Shanice took a break from limelight for a more important pursuit – family. She married actor Flex Alexander in 2000, making my wifey very jealous.
Yes, the wifey was in love with one of the guys from Homeboys In Outer Space.
Yeah I know he starred in many other things but I can’t let Homeboys In Outer Space slide.
When Shanice returned in 2006 with Every Woman Wants, the landscape of R&B had totally changed. But to her credit, Shanice mostly stuck with what she knew instead of acting like a 19-year-old. The title track and “Take Care of U” definitely aimed for the older crowd. They didn’t make a big dent in the charts but props to Shanice for staying in her lane.
Shanice has been relatively quiet in recent years, except for “Yesterday,” a track she dropped on her website a couple of years ago. It’s pretty good.
Should She Come Back?: By the sounds of “Yesterday,” definitely. She’s grown up along with her fans and wisely changed her sound to accommodate that growth. She’d have no problem reaching out to her old fans in 2013.
Let’s just hope she got that scalp condition fixed.