johnny gill (white suit)

*Johnny Gill is not expecting teenagers to run out and purchase his current album, ‘Game Changer.‘  They’re not the ones who’ve made his New Edition-assisted single “This One’s For Me And You” reach #1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Chart.

“They’re looking at what we do as older, not relevant, and not hip,” Gill says to EURweb. “And it doesn’t matter to them what we’re doing.”

To their parents, however, Gill’s chart-topping collaboration’s a pretty big deal. Many of them have followed his career since his self-titled 1983 debut; they cherished  ‘Perfect Combination,’ his ’84 collaborative LP with Stacy Lattisaw, and they all but spun on their heads with excitement when Gill joined New Edition in ‘87.

READ RELATED STORY: Johnny Gill Says New Album to Accompany New Edition Biopic

A teen sensation as a solo artist, as half of a duo, and with a group, Gill’s music spoke to his young audience. Their parents, on the other hand, those who preferred artists like Marvin Gaye, Ashford & Simpson, and The Temptations didn’t care to hear what he was singing. “When you reach a certain level where you have the different generations, we speak a different language than they speak,” Gill says.

When it comes to releasing hit songs, Gill’s chart success has been bilingual. Of his 29 solo singles, 7 of those have touched both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, and 4 of those 7 – “Rub You the Right Way,” “Fairweather Friend,” “Wrap My Body Tight,” and “The Floor” –  also landed on Billboard’s dance chart.

Those older, longstanding supporters of Gill have likely played his records around their children. But their young ears forged no connection, and found no attraction to what they heard.  “When you put it in perspective,” Gills says, “the younger generation is no different than us growing up.”

He elaborates. “I heard my mother’s music and my father’s music that they liked, but when you’re in a different category and a different generation you just have a different outlook on music. I understand that.”

johnny gill & new edition (screenshot1)

As an example, Gill calls attention to the difference in appeal for him and younger fellow chart-topper Justin Beiber.

“Right now if you took Justin Bieber’s audience and asked, ‘Who can sing better – Johnny Gill or Justin Bieber?’ No matter what I could to do to sing rings around that kid, his audience, his generation are going to say Justin Beiber.”

No matter how great he sings in comparison to Beiber, Gill says, it still wouldn’t matter.

“They can’t identify with me. They identify with him because that’s their generation. They connect. You have to respect that. They identify with their crowd. I get it.”

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1966, Johnny Gill’s music career has spanned more than 3 decades. When he began work on ‘Game Changer,’ his critically-acclaimed 7th solo album, he spent no time or effort trying to create music to capture younger listeners.

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“I didn’t try to figure out how to get the younger generation or how to connect with these young people, because if I did I would have been doing myself a disservice,” Gill says. “Yo, most of them could care less! It’s not about how great the song is, it’s simply they can’t identity.”

As for teens who’ve heard “This One’s For Me And You” and expressed they don’t care for it, their opinions haven’t hurt Gill’s feelings or made him reconsider his approach.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he says. “As an artist I know where my lane is. And if they’ve heard me, and know who I am, they know what lane I’m in. I can accept that and move forward.”

Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion,” Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, journalist, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also managing editor of Liquid Arts & Entertainment Magazine, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog