Sensitivity

Album: Ralph Tresvant (1990)
Charted: 18 4

Songfacts®:

  • Former New Edition lead singer Ralph Tresvant released this as his debut solo single after the group's breakup in 1990. The song was written by R&B hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were also at the helm for solo tracks like "Rub You the Right Way" for Tresvant's fellow New Edition member Johnny Gill.
  • This spent one week at #1 on the R&B chart.
  • Before this was released, Tresvant was the only former New Edition member without a hit single (Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill had gone on to successful solo careers, while Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronald DeVoe formed the popular Bell Biv DeVoe). "My stomach was twisting up," he told USA Today. "I was scared. I didn't want to be the only one to put out something that didn't work."
  • Ralph Tresvant isn't like all those other guys; he has sensitivity. At least, that's the message he's pushing on this smooth track. Jam and Lewis wanted to show off Tresvant's vocals by letting him sing everything, all the backgrounds and all the leads. Jam told Billboard that he and Lewis "borrowed a page from Marvin Gaye, but even more than Marvin, a guy named Leon Ware, who produced and arranged a lot of the vocals on Marvin with a lot of layering." (Ware produced Gaye's 1976 album, I Want You, including the hit title track.)

    The result was a song tailor-made for Tresvant's voice and persona. "'Sensitivity was born out of the way we saw Ralph."
  • Jam, who played most of the instruments on the track, on creating the song's atmosphere: "I like tracks that have some depth to them and that take you some place and that's what we tried to do with 'Sensitivity,' make a bed for his voice to sleep on. It's a very soothing song but also a very funky song. It's very unorthodox in a way - it's not a standard verse-chorus-verse-second chorus type of song. It's a series of what we call B-sections, which are like sections that lead into the chorus...It's a unique structure."
  • This was featured in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
  • Tejano singer Selena performed this with her Los Dinos band in San Antonio, Texas, on April 7, 1991.
  • Meshell Ndegeocello covered this on her 2018 album Ventriloquism, keeping the gender male ("a man with sensitivity"). The video, directed by Cass Bird, shows intimate moments between people who are "less conventional, less celebrated, often misunderstood."

Comments: 1

  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny
    On this day in 1991 {January 12th} Ralph Tresvant performed "Sensitivity" on the nationally syndicated television program, 'Soul Train'...
    At the time "Sensitivity" was at position #7 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart, four weeks earlier it peaked at #1 {for 1 week}...
    It reached #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    Between 1990 and 1994 the Boston, Massachusetts native had seven records on the Hot R&B Singles chart, four made the Top 10...
    Besides the above "Sensitivity", his three other Top 10 records were "Stone Cold Gentleman" {#3 in 1991}, "Do What I Gotta Do" {#2 in 1991}, and "Money Can't Buy You Love" {#2 in 1992}...
    Ralph Edward Tresvant will celebrate his 52nd birthday in four months on May 16th, 2020...
    R.I.P. Don Cornelius {1936 - 2012}...
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