Sensitivity

Album: Ralph Tresvant (1990)
Charted: 18 4
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • 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."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Tom Bailey of Thompson TwinsSongwriter Interviews

Tom stopped performing Thompson Twins songs in 1987, in part because of their personal nature: "Hold Me Now" came after an argument with his bandmate/girlfriend Alannah Currie.

Carol KayeSongwriter Interviews

A top session musician, Carol played on hundreds of hits by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Dar WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

A popular contemporary folk singer, Williams still remembers the sticky note that changed her life in college.

Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New YorkSong Writing

Can you be married in one country but not another? Only if you're part of a gay couple. One of the first famous singers to come out as a lesbian, Janis wrote a song about it.

Danny KortchmarSongwriter Interviews

Danny played guitar on Sweet Baby James, Tapestry, and Running On Empty. He also co-wrote many hit songs, including "Dirty Laundry," "Sunset Grill" and "Tender Is The Night."

Matt SorumSongwriter Interviews

When he joined Guns N' Roses in 1990, Matt helped them craft an orchestral sound; his mezzo fortes and pianissimos are all over "November Rain."