A Ginuwine performance

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

A small stage draped with scarlet and large-bulbed lights gave way for nostalgia-filled high notes, guitar riffs and that one vocoded bassline we’re all familiar with as Ginuwine serenaded an eager crowd last Thursday night at ASPB’s Winter Soulstice. Despite an initially lyric-shy audience, sharing the moonlit evening with Ginuwine was a warming experience. With love in the air, a generation raised on R&B and a seasoned performer with impassioned stage presence, UCR’s date with Ginuwine had us all thinking our lives had changed.

Upcoming artists Eric Bellinger and the Internet set the mood with smooth tunes as students gathered around the stage in all directions. For most, anticipation built as Ginuwine’s set time approached. Boosted by a live band, Ginuwine broke the crowd’s anxiety with his 1999 single, “Same Ol’ G,” prompting hundreds of shrieks at first sight. Soon afterward, the band jumped into the upbeat riff of “Hell Yeah.” Ginuwine grooved onstage while smoothly reciting the quick verses of his club anthem.

Before gracing the audience with another, Ginuwine had the “single ladies” sing back the phrase “I love you, Ginuwine.” As he teased the lyrics to “Stingy,” he informed the female audience that he didn’t “like to share” — and as the rhythm began, he innocently asked, “Y’all don’t know this song?” to a stagnant crowd. Fortunately, as the lyrics took off, excitement slowly grew.

It wasn’t until the classic “wah-wah” riff of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” that Ginuwine received a fully singing crowd. An additional cover, Michael Jackson’s “Lady in My Life,” brought the audience back to a slow groove. Students were unreceptive to the tribute, but continued to grab and cheer for Ginuwine. He briefly revived the energy by taking photos of the crowd for his Instagram, but returned to mild swinging with slow jams, “None of Ur Friends Business” and his more recent single, “Heaven.”

Before long, Ginuwine awakened the group with his part in P. Diddy’s “I Need A Girl Part 2.” From that point on, everyone was fully engaged. Around me, I could hear people singing along entire verses. “So Anxious” ignited a stage-humping Ginuwine. His vocals intensified once again, forcing all of himself into every syllable.

By now, audience members were already begging for “Pony.” Nonetheless, the intro keyboard rhythm to “Differences” had everyone remembering yet another hit on their elementary school soundtrack. Voices that extended from Coffee Bean to HUB balconies to the north side of the Bell Tower sang in unison.

“Your satisfaction, I’ll guarantee,” Ginuwine promised in one of his songs — and he sure meant it. After finishing up the pick-up ballad “In Those Jeans,” Ginuwine proceeded without hesitation to drop the bass for his iconic hit, “Pony.” Instantaneously, screams and high energy shook the HUB courtyard. Virtually every hand in the crowd went up, either holding a recording cellphone or to swing to the beat. For those few minutes, time stood still. Midterms didn’t exist in the magical world of Ginuwine, just as they hadn’t for us when “Pony” was first released nearly 20 years ago.

During the bridge of the song, Ginuwine handed the mic to his backup vocalist, swayed his way through the adjacent grass areas and threw plastic roses and teddy bears into waves of eager arms. And as if that wasn’t satisfaction enough, Ginuwine ended his set by agreeing to be every audience member’s Valentine.

To put the cherry on top, I had the pleasure of briefly asking Ginuwine a few questions. His persona was like his lovesongs: charming and sincere — or should I say, “ginuwine?”

Q: Do you think there’s a big difference between touring with TGT and as a solo artist?

Somewhat, yeah. I mean, there’s probably bigger venues that we touch as TGT, and that’s all of us as artists, as individual solo artists, you know, because of the powers that we all bring together. That’s three different powers, three different sets of supporters, fans and whatever. So, it’s just bigger venues, but the process is pretty much the same. (There’s) just a little bit more people involved, you know what I mean? … Which can be a headache … with the managers and all that kind of stuff, but it’s pretty similar. Like I said, the only thing that is different is probably the size of the venues.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re not listening to your own music?

Honestly, I don’t listen to music a lot. Early on, I used to listen to music a lot but now it’s just, you know, because of the obstacles and situations that I’ve been in during the music period. I’ve sometimes not loved it anymore and then sometimes I love it again so, you know, when I’m driving or something, I’ll turn on the radio and every so often I’ll listen to some new acts and everything, but a lot of the people that are out right now I truly don’t know. Of course, I know Drake. I know Nicki Minaj and all that kind of stuff but I don’t know a lot of the artists that are out, you know what I mean? Like, uh, the younger kids will be like, “You don’t know …?” I’ll be like “No … who’s that?” You know what I mean? It’s a good thing ‘cause you don’t wanna listen to too many things and then try to sound like what’s going on now. I think the reason for my longevity really is for what I started doing, and what I try to continue to do, and that really hits the hearts of the people that’ve been supportive.

Q: Your huge hit, “Pony,” has been featured in a lot of different things including “Magic Mike” and “Wild Hogs.” How is it to hear your song all the time?

It’s always a great accomplishment. It feels great because, you know, when you’re in the studio and you’re in there writing, and people end up singing the songs that you sat down and wrote. That’s really appreciation for what you’re doing. It just feels good and hopefully that song continues to be played on for years to come.

Q: To wrap up, can you tell us anything about your “Parks and Rec” cameo?

“Parks and Recreation!” [laughter] Ah, that’s great. How did you know about that? I’m coming on there the 19th and 20th. I think it’s gonna air maybe in May … I really don’t know yet, but it’s gonna be something good, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting into a lot of the sitcoms now and just opening up that door and avenue for me to step in and ride down and try to see what happens. I love acting. That’s what we do in our videos and everything. So, the plug is right there, so I’m looking forward to it.

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