Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
Pink Sweat$ Talks Debut Album 'Pink Planet,' The Definition Of R&B & More
Like many people, R&B singer Pink Sweat$ has spent the COVID-19 lockdown making his home a little cozier. "I’ve been setting up my house, making it how I want it, hanging pictures," he told GRAMMY.com. The singer’s also using his spare time at home to continue minor lifestyle changes: eating healthy and going to the gym, among other things. But the singer has also done something a lot of people have not: he’s created his debut album.
Pink Planet, released on February 12, features the 2020 single "Not Alright" and the previously released lush, introspective ballad "At My Worst." (GRAMMY-nominated R&B singer Kehlani joins him on the remix.) This album, Pink Sweat$ revealed, was made with "a different creative process."
"It took a lot more time, it took a lot of patience on my end to stick out the process and make the songs what I wanted them to be regardless of how long it took," he said.
Born David Bowden in Philadelphia, aka the city of Brotherly Love, on Valentine’s Day, it seems to be fate that the 29-year-old uses his talents to spread themes of love of all aspects, from self-love to romance. And just like many legendary R&B voices, Bowden began his career in the church.
"I learned everything I know about music in church. Everything I know about performing is all a reference to what I saw," the singer shared. "[Sunday Service] was really the first concert I ever went to."
Bowden emerged on the music scene in 2018 showcasing his light, smooth and delicate yet powerful vocals on the debut EP Volume I. In 2019, after touring, the Philadelphia native followed up the release with a new drop, Volume 2, which helped catapult his career. The same year, he was nominated for Best New Artist at the Soul Train Awards and also performed during the annual music awards show. Beyond his own work, the singer has produced for artists ranging from fellow Philly representative Tierra Whack to country duo Florida Georgia Line.
Pink Planet is opening another chapter for the singer; It has been generations in the making and was crafted after years of learning and creating as well as establishing his passion for the art which equipped him with the musicality needed to succeed. His family played a major role throughout the quest to Pink Planet, and they are so foundational that it was only until he incorporated "Pink Family" on the album featuring them that he felt the album was complete.
The singer spoke to GRAMMY.com about the influences behind Pink Planet, what R&B means to him and using the time in quarantine to establish a level of peace.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How do you define your music and how do you define R&B?
I like to say my music is a feeling. It’s something that comes from a deep place. It comes from a spiritual place. It comes from a soulful place. In the same breath, I would say that's what R&B is. The history of R&B pretty much stems from gospel singers, kids who grew up in the church. They transform that energy from their home church out to the world. Whatever they did, they sang with that same conviction [and] intensity while simultaneously being soft and beautiful. It’s intense, soft, and beautiful all in one mixture. That’s what I would say R&B is.
Did the pandemic have any impact on your creative process?
No, not really. I did change something on my album: I added the song "Pink Family." I added the song because I had time to reflect as an artist. All that I am has either been influenced or [a] direct mimicking of my family. My mom, my brother, my aunt, my uncle—[they’re] a direct influence. I had some time spent thinking, pondering, "I don't know what this album is missing." It was missing my family. What I wanted to do was put a song that, even if it's not this platinum song, [ was] aside from industry things.
I wanted to put a song out that if I look back 20 years [from now], I feel proud of myself [because I gave] my family a platform and [said], let’s go, let's do this together. This is how we always did it. I always did everything with my family. When it comes to church, music, it was always family, so how can I put out my debut without them?
Outside of music, how have you been spending some of this extra time in quarantine?
I bought a Ninja grill. I’ve been whipping up stuff on there. I know how to cook. I’ve been going to the gym, eating healthy and stuff like that. I’ve been setting up my house, making it how I want it, hanging pictures. I put up a mini basketball court. Just trying to organize my life and be comfortable. Before, I was so busy.
Who are some artists or some sounds that have influenced you to become an artist yourself?
Kirk Franklin. He never sang, but he always got the parties lit. Even outside of church, I remember people played Kirk Franklin. I [was] like, what? This is the club, but everybody goes off. Outside of that, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie. A more modern person is John Denver, he’s a country artist. He’s fire.
What do you hope your fans receive from your debut album?
The biggest thing I hope they get is that you can do whatever you want in this life. Pink Planet is just an action away. Your version of Pink Planet is literally just taking the steps to get there. But you can get there. I’m here to prove that you can make your dreams happen [and] it doesn't have to always be music-related. I make music, but some people have other aspirations.
Throughout the process of the album, if you listen from the beginning to the end, you almost get the full picture of who I am. You hear my struggle. You hear triumph. You hear the amazing feeling of succeeding at something that you love. Simultaneously, [there is] involvement of a family and love songs, which is what I love to make.
It’s a full body. Every single song is not a love song. I put different pieces of myself to show people as a human being, you're a whole person. You shouldn’t only listen to rap … When you see people, don't judge, just love.
The first song, "Pink City," is a starting point to where you’re from. What are some aspects of your upbringing in Philadelphia that influenced you as a person, whether it is or is not involving your artistry?
I would say in general, it's a real city, it’s a tough city. If you find yourself on the wrong block, you might have to run home. Even schooling, our school system is so bad. I remember having so much anxiety just going to school. My parents sent me to school, and I remember thinking once, "Why do they keep sending me here, it’s dangerous." I could not understand why my parents would send me to school. It felt like the worst place to be. All the fights, all the crime happened at school.
The beautiful side of Philly is that there are so many resilient people. So many loving people. So many people who are really just trying to make it. Like I say in the song, "Trynna live, gotta make it." We all are aspiring to a higher level. Whether it’s a higher level of consciousness or a higher level of living. Most people in the hood, we were just born there. We didn’t ask to be specifically there.
How I wrote the song, ["Pink City,"] when I was growing up and walking around, I didn’t always feel so comfortable. I [was] like, "Man, this just feels off." I [had] to beat somebody up to prove I’m not a punk or I [have to aspire] to be a drug dealer because these are the only people who have money around here. I remember feeling that as a kid and thinking to myself if I can just make it; I just wanted to be rich so I [could] take care of my family.
If I ask an astronaut to take me to the pink planet when I get off that spaceship, what am I going to see? What is it going to be on that planet?
The magic is not in the destination, it’s in the journey. The journey to the pink planet is not necessarily a group journey. It's not necessarily a thing that you go on with all your friends like you go to the club. It’s an individual higher calling. Whatever it is that you desire in this world, that’s your "pink planet." That's the destination, but the journey is still where the real magic is. Even in my life people are like, “He came out of nowhere” and it’s like, to you, because you’ve never heard of me. But that journey, that's the part people never see.
The pink planet is a mindset. It’s a mental place. You have to hop on your own spaceship. You got to build and craft your own spaceship or plane, whatever you’re using; You have to get there. The rest of us are already on the pink planet. We’re waiting with open arms, we’re waiting to show you, mad love.
My favorite tracks from Pink Planet are "Beautiful Life," "PINK MONEY," and "Icy." What are some of your favorites?
Right now my personal favorite is "PINK CITY" because of my mentality right now. I’m taking myself back to the beginning, the grassroots mentality, almost like I’ve done nothing. I’m starting over, in my mind. This album is pretty much ground zero for me.