Maxwell (musician)

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Maxwell in toronto.jpg
Background information
Birth name Gerald Maxwell Rivera
(1973-05-23) May 23, 1973 (age 41)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres R&B, soul, neo soul, quiet storm, funk, jazz
Occupation(s) Singer–songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, moog[1]
Years active 1991–2002, 2009-present
Labels Columbia Records

Gerald Maxwell Rivera,[2] (born May 23, 1973), better known by his stage name Maxwell, is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor. Maxwell's career began after he was bought a cheap keyboard, by 1991 he was performing on the New York City club scene. Following Maxwell's performances he began to draw interests and eventually signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1994. Maxwell's debut Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (1996) was released after being shelved for nearly a year, due to record executives' doubts of its sales potential. Despite an initial lack of mainstream interest, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite experienced a boost in sales and within a year it had sold one million copies.

In contrast to his Urban Hang Suite, Maxwell's following studio albums received comparably modest reviews from music critics. Despite selling one million copies, his second album Embrya (1998) received mixed criticism and experienced a critical backlash similar to that of other neo soul artists' work that broke their previous releases' successful formulas. Maxwell's third album Now (2001) became a platinum-seller and served as a return to the more straightforward romantic atmosphere of Urban Hang Suite. Following an eight-year sabbatical, Maxwell resurfaced with his fourth studio album BLACKsummers'night (2009), which was originally slated for 2004,[3] serving as the first release of a trilogy of albums by Maxwell.[4] The album received general acclaim from music critics.[5]

Along with musicians D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, Maxwell has been credited with helping to shape the "neo soul" movement that rose to prominence during the late 1990s. Along with D'Angelo's Brown Sugar (1995) and Badu's Baduizm (1997), Urban Hang Suite has been recognized by writers for beginning neo soul's popularity and helping the genre obtain commercial visibility. Maxwell has received numerous accolades in twelve Grammy nominations with two wins.

Early life[edit]

Maxwell was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father. His mother grew up in a devout Baptist household in Haiti.[6][7][8] Maxwell's father died in a plane crash when Maxwell was three years old.[9] The experience made him a deeply religious child, and he began singing in his Baptist church;, at age 14 he worked at Pizza Hut however, he did not really get serious about music until age 17.

After receiving a low-cost Casio keyboard from a friend, Brooklyn, New York-native Maxwell began composing material at age 17.[9] Raised in the borough's East New York-section, Maxwell's previous musical experience included his beginnings as a singer in the congregation of his Baptist church,[10] which had become an integral part of his life after the death of his father in a plane crash.[11] Already a fan of what he described as "jheri curl soul", which was the trademark of early 1980s R&B acts such as Patrice Rushen, S.O.S. Band and Rose Royce, Maxwell began to teach himself to play a variety of instruments.[11] According to him, the R&B of the early 1980s contained "the perfect combination of computerized instrumentation with a live feel", and that the genre's dynamics later became lost due to the influence of hip hop on R&B.[10] Despite facing ridicule from classmates for being shy and awkward, he progressed and continued to develop his musical abilities.[9]

Initially influenced by early-1980s urban R&B, Maxwell progressed rapidly, and by 1991 he was performing on the New York City club scene. Maxwell was able to gain access to a 24-track recording studio and started to record songs for a demo tape, which he circulated among his friends.[10] The demo engendered interest, and his official debut concert performance at Manhattan nightclub Nell's drew a crowd.[10] During the next two years, Maxwell wrote and recorded over three hundred songs and played frequently at small venues throughout New York City.[11] Maxwell's performances continued to draw interest and increase the buzz about him, and he was called "the next Prince" by a writer from Vibe magazine who attended one of his shows.[10] After earning a considerable reputation, Maxwell signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1994. He adopted his middle name as a moniker out of respect for his family's privacy.[9]


Urban Hang Suite (1994–1997)[edit]

Maxwell began working with songwriter Leon Ware and noted guitarist Wah Wah Watson to record his debut Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite in the early 1990s. Recording sessions for the album took place in 1994 and 1995 at Electric Lady Studios, RPM Studios, Sorcerer Studios and Chung King Studios in New York City, and at CRC Studios in Chicago, Illinois.[11][12] After production for Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was completed in 1995,[11] the finished product was presented to Columbia Records in Spring of that same year.[13] However, it was shelved for nearly a year,[14] due to issues with Columbia's management, the label's extensive reorganization and record executives' doubts of the album's commercial potential.[9][11]

The song was co-written by Leon Ware and is about a man's affection for a woman.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Initially, the album was slow to obtain commercial interest.[13] On April 20, 1996, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite made its chart debut at number 38 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[15] During August to October 1996, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite experienced chart growth on both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Billboard 200,[15] peaking at number eight on the former and at number 36 on the latter.[16] It spent seventy-eight weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.[17] It became a Top 30 hit in the United Kingdom.[18] Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was ranked as one of the year's top-10 best albums by Time, Rolling Stone and USA Today.[19] It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album at the 39th Grammy Awards,[12] losing the award to The Tony Rich Project's Words (1996).[20]

The album spawned four singles, the first single released, "...Til the Cops Come Knockin'", debuted on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks at number 87 in May 1996. Peaking at number 79, the single spent 12 weeks on the chart.[21] The second single, "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)", debuted on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks in August 1996 at number 11, eventually peaking number eight.[22] It spent eighteen weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 36 on September 28, 1996.[23] The third single from "Sumthin' Sumthin'", peaked at number 22 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales.[24] The album's fourth and final single, "Suitelady (The Proposal Jam)", entered the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay component chart in May 1997, peaking at number 64.[25]

In October 1996, Maxwell contributed the song "Segurança (Security)" to the AIDS-benefit album Red Hot + Rio, produced by the Red Hot Organization. On June 15, 1997, Maxwell taped an episode of the MTV concert series MTV Unplugged in New York City, performing his own songs as well as covers of songs by Kate Bush ("This Woman's Work") and Nine Inch Nails ("Closer").[26] Maxwell clashed with his label about the release of an album of his unplugged session, resulting in the release of an EP instead[27] containing seven songs. The singer was asked to do MTV Unplugged, despite only having released only one album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. Maxwell's episode of MTV Unplugged first aired on the network on July 22, 1997".[28]

Embrya, Now and hiatus (1998–2001)[edit]

Maxwell's second studio album, Embrya, was released in 1998, upon release Embrya was panned by contemporary music critics.[29] The album received mixed criticism for its more indulgent sound.[9] With its internal focus and esoteric grooves, the album served as a departure for Maxwell, who did not regret risking his reputation with urban listeners for a more challenging record.[29] Embrya experienced a critical backlash similar to that of other neo soul artists' work that broke their previous releases' successful formulas in favor of more compelling projects.[30] The album sold more than one million copies and garnered Maxwell a new alternative fanbase, but confounded urban consumers.[29]

On May 26, 1999, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[31] Embrya was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, losing to Erykah Badu's Baduizm (1997).[32] In 1999, it won the Soul Train Music Award for Best Male Soul/R&B Album.[33] In a retrospective review for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that Maxwell "overstuffs his songs with ideas that lead nowhere" and called Embrya "a bit of a sophomore stumble, albeit one with promising moments." Arion Berger, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), found the songs monotonous and called the album "unfocused and pretentious ... full of overwrought, underwritten songs with obscure, fancy titles revolving around a sort of sexual gnosticism."[34] The following year, he released "Fortunate", a single written by R. Kelly and featured on the soundtrack for the 1999 film Life. The single peaked at number one on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart. To date, "Fortunate" is Maxwell's most successful single and was Billboard's number-one R&B single of 1999.

Now, Maxwell's third album, was released on August 14, 2001 on Columbia Records in the United States. Following the lukewarm radio success of his previous album Embrya (1998), Maxwell felt more comfortable with his artistic direction for Now, which does not exhibit his previous work's conceptual style.[35] The album sold over 296,000 units in the U.S. in the first week, according to SoundScan, to earn him his first-ever number one album. Now '​s second single "This Woman's Work", a live staple of Maxwell's,[36] charted at number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number 16 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[37][38] Despite some criticism towards Maxwell's songwriting,[39][40][41] Now received generally positive reviews from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 78/100 from Metacritic.[42] The album serves as Maxwell's last release before an eight-year hiatus, which culminated in the release of his fourth studio album BLACKsummers'night (2009).[43]

BLACKsummers'night (2008-12)[edit]

Maxwell appeared on the 2008 BET Awards, where he performed the song "Simply Beautiful" in a tribute to Al Green.[44][45][46] Recording sessions for an album took place during 2007 to 2009 at Chung King Studios, Bowery Digital, and Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York City.[47] The album was produced entirely by Maxwell and musician Hod David.[47] BLACKsummers'night is Maxwell's first album since his hiatus after his third album, Now (2001), and serves as the first part of his scheduled trilogy of albums.[48] BLACKsummers'night was released on July 7, 2009 and received universal acclaim from music critics. Commercially the album was a success debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart in July 2009, with first-week sales of 316,000 copies,[49] serving as Maxwell's highest first-week sales.[50]

The album produced four singles. Its lead single "Pretty Wings" debuted at number one on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart,[51] ultimately spending 47 weeks on the chart.[52] It also spent 18 weeks and peaked at number 33 on the Hot 100 and at number 12 on its Radio Songs component chart.[53][54] The album's second single, "Bad Habits", peaked at number four on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, spending 46 weeks on the chart.[52] It peaked at number 71 on the Hot 100,[53] at number 38 on the Radio Songs chart,[54] and at number 16 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[55] The third single "Cold" spent one week at number 62 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[52] The album's fourth single "Fistful of Tears" spent 24 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, peaking at number 11.[52] It charted at number 94 on the Hot 100 and at number 63 on the Radio Songs chart.[53][54] Maxwell received six nominations for the 2010 Grammy Awards, winning "Best R&B Album" for BLACKsummers'night and "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance" for "Pretty Wings."[56] "Pretty Wings" was nominated for the "Song of the Year" which was written by Maxwell under his publishing moniker Musze.

The follow-up to BLACKsummers'night and the second installment in a planned trilogy, blackSUMMERS'night, was set to be released late 2012 but it was never released and the current exact date is unknown.[57]

On April 17, 2012, Maxwell announced that he and his eleven-piece band would embark on a six-day tour, MaxwellTwoNight -M2N tour 2012 – two nights in three cities, scheduled for the cities of Los Angeles, California – Staples Center (July 20 and July 21); Atlanta, Georgia – Phillips Arena (July 27 and July 28); and Newark, New Jersey – the Prudential Center (August 3 and August 4). Maxwell was to perform his discography in its entirety. The first day of the tour Maxwell was to perform songs from his first album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite and second album Embrya. The second day of the tour Maxwell was to perform from his third and fourth albums Now and BLACKsummer'snight, respectively. Maxwell was to be debut never-performed songs from his BLACKsummer'snight trilogy. lt was also announced that proceeds from the M2N tour merchandise would support the "Obama-Biden 2012" re-election campaign.[58] However, the tour was canceled due to vocal hemorrhaging.[59]

Fifth studio album (2013-present)[edit]

During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in May 2014, Maxwell revealed that he had been working on his fifth studio album for the past three years and has been recording in Miami.[60] On December 18, 2014, Maxwell announced on Twitter the second installment of his trilogy blackSUMMERS'night was arriving sometime in Winter 2015.[61]

Personal life[edit]

His girlfriend is model Deimantė Guobytė (born 1991) from Lithuania.[62]


Along with musicians D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, Maxwell has been credited with helping to shape the "neo soul" movement that rose to prominence during the late 1990s.[9][63] Along with D'Angelo's Brown Sugar (1995) and Badu's Baduizm (1997),[63] Urban Hang Suite has been recognized by writers for beginning neo soul's popularity and helping the genre obtain commercial visibility.[64][65] However, in contrast to D'Angelo, Maxwell was more conventional in his approach on his debut album.[66] The term "neo soul" was penned in the late 1990s by record executive Kedar Massenburg, who managed both D'Angelo and Erykah Badu.[63] According to writer Peter Shapiro, the term itself refers to a musical style that obtains its influence from more classical styles, and bohemian musicians seeking a soul revival, while setting themselves apart from the more contemporary sounds of their mainstream R&B counterparts.[63]

In commenting on the "new soul revival" in music, Maxwell told Entertainment Weekly in 1997 that "everything out there musically was inspired or influenced by something from the past. It's not about creating some super-fresh new thing. If it doesn't lend itself to your history, how is it going to extend to your future? That's what's really brilliant about looking into children's eyes—you can see their parents in them."[10] The Washington Post called him "the Marvin Gaye of the '90s".[67] Its columnist wrote that Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite "heralded the arrival of a top-of-the-class graduate of the old school of soul, one who could sing about romantic aspiration and tribulation with heart-wrenching emotion. It was as if the aesthetic that Gaye ascribed to — 'music that has feeling, hope and meaning – all the things people are looking for' — had been rediscovered after a long, hedonistic interlude."[67] According to writer Kerika Fields, Maxwell received an overwhelmingly positive reaction to his debut album from music listeners due to their weariness of contemporary black music's predictability.[68]

Maxwell's role in writing and producing the album exhibited a level of artistic control by an R&B artist that was uncommon in the recording industry at the time.[11] On Maxwell's emergence with Urban Hang Suite, writer Carol Brennan cited him, along with the Fugees, D'Angelo and Tony Rich, as neo soul musicians that "exhibited the identifying characteristics of this new breed of R&B artists: lyrics that give voice to intense personal expression, creative control over the music, and a unexpectedly successful debut."[11] In his book A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America (2006), Craig Hansen Werner lists Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite as important in neo soul, including it along with R. Kelly's R. (1998), D'Angelo's Voodoo (2000), the Young Disciples' Road to Freedom (1991), Aaliyah's self-titled final release (2001), Faith Evans' Keep the Faith (1998) and "anything by Seal" as among "the starter kit" for the genre.[69] In Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003), writer Mark Anthony Neal cited the album as one of the most popular of neo soul recordings, along with Musiq Soulchild's Aijuswanaseing (2000) and India.Arie's Acoustic Soul (2001), that helped to redefine the boundaries and contours of black pop and R&B.[30]


Main article: Maxwell discography


Awards and nominations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Granditsky, Maria (April 1996). "A reluctant star on the rise". Retrieved July 17, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Maxwell cancels MaxwellTwoNight tour because of health issues". CBS/Associated Press. Retrieved March 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ Peisner, David. "Body & Soul". Spin: 64–72. August 2008.
  4. ^ Kellman, Andy. Review: BLACKsummers'night. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-07-23.
  5. ^ BLACKsummers'night (2009): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-07-23.
  6. ^ San Miguel, Celia (September 2009). "A Woman's Worth". Giant. p. 80.
  7. ^ Reid, Shaheem. (September 29, 2009) "Maxwell Dazzles the Ladies at Madison Square Garden – Singer's Hometown Gig Features Common, Chrisette Michele as Opening Acts". MTV. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  8. ^ On the Cover: Maxwell – Let Me Love You (Giant Magazine). Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Huey, Steve. Maxwell: Biography. AllMusic. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Adams (1998), pp. 172–173.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Brennan (2002), pp. 132–133.
  12. ^ a b Product Page: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. Muze. Retrieved on 2009-03-30.
  13. ^ a b Williams, Jean A. "Maxwell Finds His Groove". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: July 23, 1997.
  14. ^ Harrington, Richard. "Maxwell's House of Soul; Romantic Debut Is Quite a Concept". The Washington Post: 7. October 16, 1996.
  15. ^ a b Albums Charts: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  16. ^ Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite: Billboard Albums. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  17. ^ The Billboard Hot 200: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite - Oct 05 1996. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  18. ^ Easlea, Daryl. Review: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. BBC Music. Retrieved on 2009-07-09.
  19. ^ George, Michael. Maxwell: African American singer. American Visions. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  20. ^ Product Page: Words. Muze. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  21. ^ Singles Charts: ...Til The Cops Come Knockin'. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  22. ^ Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs: Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder) - Aug 17 1996. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  23. ^ The Billboard Hot 100: Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder) - Sep 28 1996. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  24. ^ Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite: Billboard Singles. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  25. ^ Singles Charts: Suitelady (The Proposal Jam). Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  26. ^ "Maxwell Unplugged".
  27. ^ [dead link] Maxwell Unplugged CD
  28. ^ Maxwell's Unplugged CD
  29. ^ a b c Seyfu Hinds, Sewlyn (April 2001). "Inner Vision". Vibe (New York): 104–10. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Neal (2003), p. 117.
  31. ^ "American album certifications – Maxwell – Embrya". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  32. ^ 14th Annual Soul Train Award Winners March 6, 2000
  33. ^ Berger et al. 2004, p. 521.
  34. ^ Jones, Steve. "Maxwell Says He's Ready 'Now' to 'Get to Know Ya'". USA Today: D.08. August 20, 2001.
  35. ^ Leroy, Dan. Review: Now. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved on 2009-09-25.
  36. ^ "The Billboard Hot 100 - Maxwell - This Woman's Work - Chart Listing For The Week Of jun 29 2002". Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  37. ^ "The Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs - Maxwell - This Woman's Work - Chart Listing For The Week Of jul 06 2002". Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  38. ^ Lewis, Miles Marshall. Review: Now. LA Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-09-25.
  39. ^ Cinquemani, Sal. Review: Now. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-09-25.
  40. ^ Coleman, Nick. Review: Now. The Independent. Retrieved on 2009-09-25.
  41. ^ Now (2001): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-09-25.
  42. ^ Kellman, Andy Review: BLACKsummers'night. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-07-19.
  43. ^ Muziek | Myspace Music. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  44. ^ "Video Maxwell's tribute to Al Green, BET Awards 2008 van That Marcus – Myspace Video". Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  45. ^ "Maxwell Shocks, Awes and Delights at BET Awards". Soulbounce.Com. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  46. ^ a b Per liner notes from BLACKsummers'night album
  47. ^ Capobianco, Ken. Review: BLACKsummers'night. The Boston Globe. Retrieved on 2009-07-19.
  48. ^ Sisario, Ben. ‘Blacksummers’night’ Takes Maxwell to No. 1. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-09-13.
  49. ^ Caulfield, Keith. Maxwell Tops Billboard 200. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  50. ^ R&B/Hip-Hop Songs - Week of September 05, 2009. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  51. ^ a b c d Chart History - Maxwell: R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  52. ^ a b c Chart History - Maxwell: Hot 100. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  53. ^ a b c Chart History - Maxwell: Radio Songs. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  54. ^ Chart History - Maxwell: Dance/Club Play Songs. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-02.
  55. ^ 2010 Grammy Award Nominations. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  56. ^ Kennedy, John (January 3, 2011). "Maxwell to Release blackSUMMERS'night in 2011". Vibe. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  57. ^ [1]. Retrieved April 17, 2012
  58. ^ "Maxwell Cancels Tour Due to Vocal Hemorrhaging". Rolling Stone. June 23, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  59. ^
  60. ^ "MAXWELL on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2015-01-01. 
  61. ^ Snap happy! Singer Maxwell looks like the cat that got the cream as he photographs bikini-clad model girlfriend Deimante Guobyte during beach frolic
  62. ^ a b c d Shapiro (2006), p. 104–105.
  63. ^ Nelson, Trevor. Radio 1 Listeners Top 50 Albums of 1993-2003. TrevorNelson. Retrieved on 2009-03-30.
  64. ^ Harvilla, Rob. Maxwell Returns. So Do the Giant Panties. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  65. ^ Hahn (2003), p. 227.
  66. ^ a b Harrington, Richard. "Maxwell Has a Gaye Old Time". Washington Post: July 15, 1997.
  67. ^ Fields, Kerika. "Maxwell Thrills Them at New York's Supper Club". New York Amsterdam News: November 16, 1996.
  68. ^ Werner (2006), p. 328.

External links[edit]