Tell Me What You Want Me To Do

Album: T.E.V.I.N. (1991)
Charted: 63 6
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Tevin Campbell's girl is upset with him, but he's determined to make it right. He lets her know he'll always be there for her, and wants to hear what she needs him to do.

    It's a very mature slow jam, but Campbell was just 15 when it was released.
  • "Tell Me What You Want Me To Do" was produced by Narada Michael Walden, who wrote it with Campbell and Sally Jo Dakota. Walden, who was at the helm for Aretha Franklin's comeback in the '80s, was one of several big names brought in to work with Campbell on his first album, T.E.V.I.N.

    Campbell was signed to Quincy Jones' label, and Jones had access to lots of very high-level talent (he's the guy who got Eddie Van Halen to do a guitar solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It"). Campbell's first single was "Round And Round," written and produced by Prince and used on the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack.

    Walden speaks highly of Campbell, telling Rolling Stone in 2021: "I'm not sure there's a more gifted male singer than Tevin."
  • The first single from the album was "Just Ask Me To," which was just a minor hit, peaking at #88 in August 1991. "Tell Me What You Want Me To Do" came next and was accompanied by a big promotional push. Campbell made the rounds, performing the song on Showtime At The Apollo, The Arsenio Hall Show, and many other programs. It made a slow climb up the charts, landing at #6 in February 1992, Campbell's highest placement on that chart. The song also went to #1 on the R&B chart, the first of three in his career ("Alone with You," and "Can We Talk" are the others).
  • Due to his age, talent, and Quincy Jones connection, Tevin Campbell was compared to Michael Jackson and faced those unrealistic expectations. His first two albums went Platinum, but then he fell off the radar. It's not unusual for an artist to have a 5-year run of hits and then vanish, but Campbell was a teenager throughout his run. In the 2000s, he put music aside and got involved with stage productions. He later came out as gay, telling People, "I don't think the sex symbol thing worked, but the love songs last."

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