Singer, songwriter, producer
Mario Winans made waves on the R&;B music scene in 2004 with his solo release Hurt No More. The album, released on P. Diddy's Bad Boy label, topped the charts immediately, selling a quarter of a million copies in its first week of release, and launching the hit single "I Don't Wanna Know." The work followed his less commercially successful 1997 Motown debut, Story of My Heart. In addition to his solo work, Winans has made a name for himself producing, writing, and performing on the albums of other artists, including Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, and the members of his famous gospel-singing family.
The Winans family has long been known as something of a musical dynasty. Winans's mother, Vicki Winans, is an award-winning gospel singer. His father, Marvin Winans, along with his three uncles, are members of the Winans, a quartet that is frequently credited with helping to update traditional gospel music and give it a more urban, contemporary sound. J. R. Reynolds of Billboard wrote that the Winans family is well on the way to stealing the title of best known black musical family from the sensational pop-rocking Jackson family.
Winans set out to carve out his own musical legacy among mainstream audiences with his solo debut, Story of My Heart, in 1997. Although the album marked the first time a Winans family member had recorded an R&;B set, Winans didn't so much set out to chart his own musical course apart from his family as to find a niche that would allow him to voice his unique talents. "With love songs [as opposed to Gospel]," he explained to Billboard 's Shawnee Smith, "you may say 'baby' or something like that, and gospel radio doesn't really play that."
Music was in the air throughout Winans's childhood, and so it was natural that Winans would take to music as soon as he was able to bang on pots and pans in his grandmother's kitchen. While he later studied music in school, it was his own experimentation outside of school that led him to the music that was later to make him famous in his own right. Winans's early studies included piano and drums, and instruction in how to read music. He began composing in earnest when his mother bought him recording equipment, and taught himself how to use the gear. "From then on," he recalled on his website, "I was making beats constantly."
Winans began his professional music career in his teens, producing and performing on the albums of other artists. His first gig came just after he graduated from high school, when he produced an album for a gospel music group based in Detroit. Next came a job as in-house producer for Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin, where one of Winans's first projects was working with hip-hopper R. Kelly. This sealed Winans's reputation as a first class producer, and he continued producing and writing well after he began his solo career. Besides R. Kelly's music, Winans's production work has graced tracks by such renowned artists as Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Winans family members, Janet Jackson, and many others.
Winans made his solo recording debut on Motown, releasing Story of My Heart in 1997. The then-22-year-old Winans penned and produced Story of My Heart as a collection of love songs, setting the tone for his future solo work. The album featured the single "Don't Know," which incorporated samples from rapper Notorious B.I.G. and R&;B superstar Barry White. The album was a hard sell for Winans's parents, who would have preferred to see him follow his gospel roots more closely. But they eventually got behind the project, especially since the album did not include profanity or other questionable lyrics. Even though his parents might not have agreed, Winans felt that his debut album did in fact reflect his background in religious music as well as his religious faith, because God, he said, is love personified. He also hoped that his music would help people to understand that the best way to cope with life's problems, including relationship troubles, is through prayer.
Because Story of My Heart broke new musical ground for the Winans family, Winans did not have his family's extensive audience to draw from. Motown had to start from scratch in building Winans a fan base of his own. To serve that end, Motown sent posters and tapes to beauty parlors, barber shops, and colleges around the United States, and planned both national and European tours for Winans.
However, just as the album was getting off the ground, Winans's biggest booster at Motown, Andre Harrell, left the company, and sales of the album languished. Only one track, "Don't Know," reached the charts, and the album sold fewer than 20,000 copies. Motown and Winans parted ways, but Winans stayed busy producing and recording with other artists for the next few years. Eventually he moved to P. Diddy's Bad Boy Entertainment label for his next release, 2004's Hurt No More. The album featured the multitalented Winans singing and playing keyboards and drums, as well as his songwriting and production talents.
Following the path he blazed for himself with Story of My Heart, Winans again explored the fertile ground of affairs of the heart with Hurt No More. "This record," he said on his website, "is about relationships, pure and simple." More than that, the album set out to show that men can be just as emotionally vulnerable as women, without being any less masculine for it. Hurt No More opens with the single "I Don't Wanna Know." Featuring samples from P. Diddy and new-ager Enya, the track explores a man's reaction to a woman's infidelity and his choice to accept her anyway. Other cuts deal with themes of separation from a loved one and the desire not to be taken for granted by a lover.
The album proved to be a winner, debuting in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and in the number one position on the Top R&;B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. "I Don't Wanna Know" became the second-best-selling single in the United States, and the album sold 223,000 copies in its first week alone, firmly establishing the 29-year-old Winans as a force to be reckoned with on the R&;B scene.
For the Record …
Born in 1975 in Orangeburg, NC; son of Marvin and Vicki Winans (gospel musicians).
Producer, performer, and writer for gospel and R&;B groups as well as individual artists, including Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, P. Diddy, the Winans family, and others, 1990s-2000s; released debut solo album, Story of My Heart, on Motown, 1997; released second solo album, Hurt No More, on Bad Boy label, 2004.
Addresses: Record company—Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, 1440 Broadway, 16th Fl., New York, NY 10018, website: http://www.badboyonline.com. Website—Mario Winans Official Website: http://www.mariowinans.com.
Story of My Heart, Motown, 1997.
Hurt No More, Bad Boy, 2004.
Billboard, February 1, 1997; May 17, 1997; May 8, 2004.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 29, 2004, p. 13.
Michigan Chronicle, June 18, 1997, p. 1B.
New York Daily News, April 27, 2004, p. 38.
PR Newswire, April 15, 2004, p.1.
"Mario Winans," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 29, 2004).
Mario Winans Official Website, http://www.mariowinans.com (June 29, 2004).
"The Music of Mario Winans," EMI Music Publishing, http://www.emimusicpub.com/worldwide/artist_profile/mariowinans_profile.html (June 29, 2004).
"The Winans," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 29, 2004).
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