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There’s no stopping the whirlwind force that is “Uncle” Charlie Wilson. In addition to enjoying the success of his current single, “Forever Valentine,” he is in the studio working on a new album.
Wilson hit the ground running in this new decade when he performed “Earfquake” on the 2020 Grammy Awards with Boyz II Men and 2020 Grammy Award winner, Tyler, The Creator. He celebrated Valentine’s Day with a performance of “Forever Valentine” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” “The Wendy Williams Show” and “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”
Within the last three years alone, everyone’s favorite uncle added two more No. 1 singles (“Chills,” “I’m Blessed”) that both went #1 on two different Billboard charts at the same time for the first time, claimed his 13th Grammy nomination, headlined a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl, sold out another arena tour and opened on Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour finale. That’s not counting a string of diverse cameos on tracks by everyone from Tyler, the Creator, “nephew” Snoop Dogg and Kanye West to hip-hop next-geners Chika, Aminé and Guapdad 4000.
Ask Wilson what keeps pushing him to burn rubber, the lead singer and co-founding member of The Gap Band explains, “I have a very young spirit that likes to play with music. And of course, I have to listen to him. He keeps me connected to the streets and the younger generation of talents who keep calling me to do duets, hooks or verses—which also keeps me in a happy place. And when I’m happy, I like to cut records.”
Now Wilson is kicking off the new decade with his latest “happy” project, his new single: “Forever Valentine” (P Music Group/BMG) is currently Top 7 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart. The song had the highest chart debut and scored into the Top 10 after only 3 weeks, two milestones that haven’t happened on that respective chart since 2018. Co-written and co-produced by Bruno Mars, the exuberant romantic romp finds Wilson extolling the virtues of year-round love. “One day out the year ain’t enough for my baby,” he declares as his fresh, effervescent vocals glide across a contemporary, soul-infused track that stays true to Wilson’s essence.
“I’ve been having so much fun with this record,” says the R&B/funk pioneer of “Forever Valentine,” whose birth took some time owing to the pair’s respective jam-packed schedules. “We first performed together at London’s Hyde Park Festival in 2018 then we ended up on the road together for his 24K Magic Tour. So, we’d sing every day at lunch time as we further hashed out the song.”
Also co-produced by Grammy-winning production team The Stereotypes (Mars’ “That’s What I Like”) and D-Mile, “Forever Valentine” features backing vocals by Mars, Wilson and James Fauntleroy, among others.
As for the secret behind his and Mars’ creative combustion, Wilson says it’s simple. “Bruno is a firecracker; high energy like me onstage. We talk about that all the time as we have a lot of admiration and respect for each other. It’s a beautiful thing when two people have that kind of connection. Nothing but great things can come of that.”
Other great things indeed have happened in the three years since Wilson released his latest album and seventh solo project, 2017’s In It to Win It. He appears on three standout tracks from Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR—a 2020 Grammy winner for Best Rap Album: “Boyfriend,” “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “Earfquake” alongside Playboi Carti.
Wilson’s other recent guest gigs in the hip-hop realm include Kanye West’s “No Mistakes” with Kid Cudi (from West’s No. 1 Billboard 200 album Ye), DJDS’s “No Pain” with Khalid, Snoop Dogg’s “One More Day” (from Snoop’s No. 1 gospel album Bible of Love) and Aminé’s “Dakota.” Wilson closed out last year by lending his versatile chops to tracks from buzzing rap newcomers Guapdad 4000 (“Gucci Pajamas” with Chance the Rapper) and Chika (“Can’t Explain It”).
Those comprise only a handful of the credits that have shaped Wilson’s generation-bridging dual career of over four decades. As lead singer of R&B/funksters the Gap Band, he fronted frequently covered/sampled classics such as “Outstanding,” “Yearning for Your Love,” “Burn Rubber on Me” and “Early in the Morning.” From there, a once-homeless and drug-addicted Wilson completely rewrote his script to craft an equally stellar solo career.
With breakthrough solo album Bridging the Gap paving the way, Wilson scored his first top 5 Billboard Adult R&B single in 2000, “Without You.” And he hasn’t looked back since. Thus far, he boasts a total of 23 hits on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs airplay chart, stretching back to the No. 2 “Without You.” In 2018, he posted his sixth No. 1 on the tally with “Chills,” which spent six weeks atop the list.
Concurrently, Wilson notched another chart feat. “I’m Blessed” featuring T.I.”— another single from In It to Win It (a No. 7 debut on The Billboard 200) — ascended to the top of the magazine’s Hot Gospel Songs chart, where it spent 65 weeks in the top 5. This marked the first time any artist placed two different No. 1 songs on those respective charts at the same time.
Wilson’s feats aren’t limited to the charts. Last year he earned his 13th Grammy nomination with “Made for Love,” a scintillating duet featuring Lalah Hathaway from his last album. Still a perennial top live draw, Wilson headlined sold-out arena tours in 2015 and 2017 plus a two-night stand at the Hollywood in 2018. Later that year, he was handpicked by self-professed super fan Bruno Mars to open seven shows on the latter’s 24K Magic World Tour finale.
A BET Lifetime Achievement honoree, Wilson is a New York Times and Washington Post best-selling author as well. His frank, inspirational memoir, I Am Charlie Wilson, delves into the singer’s hard-won fight against addiction. Now 25 years sober and counting, Wilson is also a prostate cancer survivor of 11 years.
It’s quite a full-circle moment that while acknowledging the 20th anniversary of Bridging the Gap, the young-at-heart Wilson is more focused on pushing full steam ahead into the next decade. Beyond “Forever Valentine” and several upcoming festival dates, Wilson says he doesn’t have a timeline yet for his next album. “It’s just about keeping a happy vibe now as we work our way back to the top of the leader board.”
Connect with Charlie Wilson:
Official Website: www.charliewilsonmusic.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/charliewilson / @charliewilson
Instagram: www.instagram.com/imcharliewilson / @imcharliewilson