I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this.
We hear new music all the time – some songs fly in one ear and directly out of the other, some stick with us for awhile, and still others might find a permanent home on our playlists.
But then there are those cases where you hear a song ONE TIME and you just KNOW it’s gonna be a hit and the voice behind the track will be a megastar.
If you were around in 1997, I bet that was your reaction this this song.
This year Rome’s “I Belong to You (Every Time I See Your Face)” turns 20 years old.
Excuse me while I renew my AARP membership.
“I Belong to You” has been one of the biggest anomalies in R&B history. How can a surefire career-making hit spawn no solid follow-ups? And where the heck is Rome? Retired? Lost his voice? Dragged into the Upside Down by the Stranger Things monster?
You’ve got questions? I’ve got the answers.
Well, some of the answers. This Rome guy is pretty slippery.
Jerome Woods of Benton Harbor, Michigan, grew up with a love for music. In high school, he sang in a cover band named Fire & Ice, which sounds like the name of one of those lame teen clubs we went to in high school.
In the early 90s he dropped out of college and hit the road, heading to California in search of his big break. Although he toured with the late Vesta Williams for a while, it wasn’t until his demo landed in the hands of Gerald Baillergeau and Victor Merrit. The duo passed the demo to RCA Records, who signed the man now known as Rome and prepped him for his solo debut.
In 1997, Rome kicked down the door with his self-titled debut, and one of the best R&B songs of the 90s.
Most of you reading this probably know this song very well, but have you listened to the lyrics lately? I mean, really listened to them?
Say my lady
Tell me what’s wrong with your boyfriend
Aaaahhhhh come on
He holds the key to your heart
But he don’t love you baby, baby like I do
Only wanna be with you
Girl you are the love of my life babe
And I’d give it to you baby
You belong to me and only me
If this was 2017, Rome would be lurking in your girl’s DMs. He was out here Drake’ing way before Aubrey shoved his struggle vocals down our eyes.
Shame on you, Rome.
Song’s still fire though.
“I Belong To You” climbed all the way to No. 2 on the R&B charts, but it’ll always be No. 1 in our hearts.
After a song that HUGE, you’d think success would be certain.
But if you think that, this is probably your first time reading one of our “What Ever Happened to” columns.
Rome followed up that hit with two oft-forgotten singles. “Do You Like This” fared OK, based off the strength of Rome’s previous hit. It wasn’t nearly as memorable as its predecessor. Rome also dropped “Crazy Love,” a song I vividly remember thanks to its insane video:
You see, Rome is crazy in love six years before Beyonce, so let’s throw him in a mental institution and have him literally bounce off the walls. Wearing a vinyl straight jacket:
Then all the mental patients gather for a late-90s dance number.
Lawd if this video dropped in 2017, the think pieces would fall from the heavens like poorly written manna.
Despite this video being burned into my retinas for eternity, “Crazy Love” didn’t prove to be as memorable for the masses. The song didn’t even chart.
Here’s where things get a little tricky for Rome. He soon began recording songs for his sophomore album but it was rejected by RCA. Undeterred, Rome signed a distribution deal to drop Rome 2000: Thank You under his own label. But RCA wouldn’t play ball and the material recorded under RCA was not released (though you can now find a few tracks online). Thank You for nothing, RCA.
Rome continued to grind though, quietly dropping To Infinity (Thank You) around the turn of the century. To Infinity was a revamped version of the original Rome 2000 album and, honestly, wasn’t much to write home about. “She Believes In Me” is a pretty nice track though, as is “Say Yes.” Also, the album cover looks like an after-party flier that some weirdo would stick under your windshield wiper.
And speaking of album covers, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
In 2001, Rome would return with To The Highest.
Lord keep me near the cross.
It’s like Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift had a baby with one of those old No Limit album covers. And look at Rome’s face, he looks like he got caught stealing one of the bikes from the set of Transformers The Last Knight.
The bike matches his outfit though, so props for that.
ANYWAY, I couldn’t find very many tracks from To The Highest online. One can only assume that all the money from the project was sunk into that sweet bike. “Yes I Will” wasn’t bad though.
In 2003, Rome was back YET AGAIN with Do It, and ladies, he’s serving y’all ALL THE SEXY with this cover. Velour suit with no shirt, sitting on a photoshopped water fountain (or giant wedge of wet loaf bread, I can’t really tell) – y’all gonna GET this work.
Rome’s out here stealing hearts and motorcycles.
Seriously, though, Do It is a shockingly great album. “Drew from the Deck” is a BANGER, and “Can We Get Down” is good too. Most of the tracks are lingering around YouTube and are well worth your time.
Besides a greatest hits album in 2006 (that is basically a chopped-up version of his debut) and an EP 2014, the big homie has been relatively quiet for the past decade.
But guess what? Rome’s been hiding in plain sight. He’s pretty active on Facebook, still performs on occasion and apparently is looking to release new music soon. Check him out for yourself.
I like how he’s now Rome the Smooth R&B Singer. I guess that’s better than Rome the International Bike Thief.
Should He Come Back?: This is a tough one. While most of Rome’s albums were merely OK, Do It proved he had way more in the tank you might expect. Then again, Do It was recorded way back in 2003, back in those halcyon days we merely had dumb presidents, not psychopathic ones. But R&B certainly needs a voice like his today – I’m willing to give him a shot again.
Plus, who can say no to this face?