El DeBarge squanders ‘Second Chance’ with latest drug relapse

OPINION - If his spiral continues, who's going to be the voice of reason to not let that part of his life be pimped for reality television and our twisted enjoyment?...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Things were finally starting to come back around for El DeBarge.

During Sunday night’s Grammys, DeBarge saw his album, Second Chance, nominated alongside Usher, Jaheim and Kim for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, and his song, also named “Second Chance”, nominated for Best R&B Song. The 49-year-old crooner was slated to kick of the ‘Intimacy Tour’ with Kem and Ledisi in Texas on Thursday but Monday news came out that DeBarge had canceled all his personal appearances and voluntarily checked himself into a rehab center.

Musiq Soulchild will take DeBarge’s place on the tour, and a spokesman for promoter AEG Live said DeBarge was leaving the tour “due to personal reasons.”

Click here to view a slideshow of the best DeBarge sampling songs

DeBarge hopes to address years of substance abuse, which include addictions to heroin and crack, during his rehab stint. In a press release he said, “I hate to disappoint my fans but it is necessary for me to take the time to work on me so that I may continue to share my music and my story with everyone. I thank everyone in advance for their prayers and well wishes and hope that you will respect my privacy during this time.”

Rumors swirled that the artist had recently suffered a serious relapse but what’s more disheartening is that he’d just came back into our music vocabulary.

Before resurfacing during last June’s BET Awards, where he did a medley of his hit songs as lead singer of DeBarge and a solo artist including the “All This Love” and “Rhythm of the Night,” DeBarge had been out of the spotlight. He hadn’t recorded an album in 16 years and had been largely just a figment of our 80s memories other than popping up on TMZ in 2008 and later serving a nearly two-year prison sentence on probation violations stemming from drug possession charges.

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During his height in the 80s, he was lead singer of the band DeBarge with five of his siblings. From that group, he went on to solo success, as did his brother Chico, who wasn’t in the family band.

His decline on the charts paralleled his spiral into drugs and eventual legal run-ins. Before Monday’s news, things were beginning to look up for DeBarge after two decades dormant in the industry.

The good news? He made the decision voluntary.
The initiative to realize he had a problem and needed help to fix it is one of the few admirable things you can take from the situation.

One of the question it immediately raises was whether or not DeBarge was back long enough during his comeback to endear himself to a new generation of fans enough to care when he returns to music again. His older base isn’t going anywhere but it’s the younger audience who, if they’re under 30, may have been only old enough to remember “Rhythm of the Night” or “I Like It” as songs their parents were into.

He’s proven the falsetto he built a career on is still very much intact. For a certain demographic, I’m sure his appeal is just as much about nostalgia as actual sex appeal and the music? Well, the Grammys answered that question.

Second Chance garnered award consideration in the midst of a R&B climate split pretty much on those who are young and sex crazed, and the re-threaded veteran, singing a wiser tune on happiness gained from making the significant figure in their life happy but reminiscing on the good times being young and wild.

His introspection and maturity was authentic in a way that listeners hadn’t heard in a while. But can he kick the habit in a vacuum where we’ve seen abuse and addiction destroy the careers of giants in the genre?

You can only hope so.

The bad news is recovery is a long road. He knows that. He’s got decades of trial and error learning that very lesson. The problem with recovery isn’t when you’re in rehab, it’s when you’re out and once again riding the wave of success that allowed for the addiction to become an issue to begin with.

How will El DeBarge handle being on tour? You can’t expect a grown man to have a chaperone. And can promoters invest their money on him with the trust that the dollars they put behind him to show up city after city, clean, sober and ready to make women melt, will payout?

If his spiral continues, who’s going to be the voice of reason to not let that part of his life be pimped for reality television and our twisted enjoyment? Put his stint on rehab on BET, VH1 or TVOne right now and the ratings would be high but it’d certainly detrimental as well.

When he returns from treatment, the goal has to be not to expose him too much too fast. You have to consider how surreal it must be to go from prison less than two years, with nary a hit to show for your once scorching music career for nearly two decades, to a chart climbing single and two Grammy nominations. It’s insane to expect someone to just take being thrust back into a former life so smoothly.

America lives for a comeback, but open arms won’t stay that way forever. I hope for El DeBarge’s recovery, just don’t call the next album Third Chance.