Posing as a Great Singer: Examining Trey Songz’s Intriguing Success

After engaging in a close examination of Trey Songz’s discography, there has to be significant factors that have contributed to his success—other than being able to sing—because he cannot sing. Now, Trey Songz seems to be a nice young man, although I have never met him in person. He has never, from my knowledge, been arrogant and has not had any beef with other artists. Mr. Songz has encountered trouble with the legal system since he has been an artist. He just seems to be a really good guy. Unfortunately, all of those things have nothing to do with singing. Trey Songz was named the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Best Male R&B Artist at the 2010 BET Awards. Really? Trey Songz? Are we really ready to say that this man is one of the best male R&B singers? Is he really a good enough singer to be granted such a prestigious award? This article seeks to offer possible explanations about why Trey Songz has been a successful artist.

While many may assert that I’m attempting to mar the reputation of Trey Songz as a singer, this piece is purely an attempt to try to understand the factors that contribute to the success of Trey Songz.

Many women I’ve asked posit that Mr. Songz is a very attractive man with a very nice body. With many women driving his sells, one has to dedicate at least some serious thought to the idea that Songz’s success results largely from his looks. Every opportunity Songz gets he takes off his shirt or simply shows up shirtless. We are all now familiar with the reality that sex and sexy sells. Trey Songz and his marketing team comprehends this well. They recognize that his sex appeal, good looks, and nice body resonate well with the ladies. It would be imprudent not to think about how vital his physical appearance is to the way in which his singing is primarily received. One’s physical appearance is crucial to one’s popular reception in today’s music industry.

Moreover, Trey Songz has done a fascinating job of becoming an award-winning singer without proving his ability to sing. When you listen to any song by Trey Songz, you never have an opportunity to really hear him sing. On many of his songs, his voice is drowned out by the musical accompaniments and sound effects. To be frank, he basically talks instead of sings on all of his songs. He and his handlers have orchestrated a great strategy to always ensure that he has the right songs, the right musical accompaniments, and the right sound effects that prevent his inability to sing from being exposed. He gets exposed, however, when he has to sing live.

Listen to Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” and witness how the music operates as a masking agent to camouflage his inability to sing. “Neighbors Know My Name” is a classic example of how he principally just talks instead of sings.

The aforementioned factors that contribute to Trey Songz’s success are important for us to remember when we start endowing accolades like “Best Male R&B Artist.” The previously mentioned factors that have contributed to his success collectively divulge that his success has nothing to do with his singing. We denigrate the venerated prestige of an award like “Best Male R&B Artist” when we give it to someone like Trey Songz. There’s a conspicuous difference between talking and singing. Now, do you really think Mr. Songz measures up vocally to the likes of R. Kelly, Brian McKnight, Eric Benét, Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, and Usher? As far as Trey Songz’s vocals go, I contend that he’s not even qualified enough to hold their jockstraps.

Critically listen to Trey Songz’s singing and don’t just look at the pretty face and nice body. If you love his pretty face and nice body, then say that but don’t anoint him to be “Best Male R&B Artist.”

I’m afraid that we are giving many contemporary artists who are posing as singers a pass on their vocals just because we love how they look. Trey Songz should thank God every day for blessing him with the good looks he has because he would not have experienced the success he has without his good looks. I guess Trey Songz offers us a new model for being a successful artist in today’s music industry: Have the right hue of Black skin, a nice body, and good looks and you can become a successful singer without being able to sing.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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21 comments

  1. Trey is successful because he is sexy…plain and simple. They have molded him to be a sex symbol who can guide his way through a song by talking and doing that little moaning he does..aka singing. I won’t say that he doesn’t have a slightly decent voice, but as far as being a great singer, that he is NOT. He proved this with his performance at the 2011 BET Honors award show. It was horrible. The performance was straight ratchet . I didn’t know if he was going to beg, cry, die or what. But sex sells and he has definitely been given a pass because of his looks.

    1. It’s called good writing. It’s called having a broad vocabulary. It’s called being a university English Instructor. It’s called being educated. It’s called being a dual Ph.D. student in English and Education. So what’s your beef with the article? Be more specific. I never write any article for everyone to agree with me. This is not a space where I expect everyone to agree with me. Have an intelligent discourse with people where you state your specific disagreements and don’t just wage simple attacks. Thank you!

    1. Talent has significant weight. What’s interesting is how people like Trey Songz can decorate non-talent into the perception of real talent. Eric Benet, R. Kelly, and Brian McKnight have true talent and they sell and yes they have the “sexy” that sells, but they have the vocal talent. I just want more caution to be demonstrated by the agencies/bodies/committees that give out prestigious awards to not allow the popularity and the “sexy” to override the original purpose of the awards: talent.

  2. I have seen Trey Songz live in concert 3 times in the last year and to say he cannot sing is laughable. I saw him about 3 weeks ago and he sounded better than he had the previous 2 times I saw him. Stop hating.

      1. He absolutely can sing. His falsetto, his vocal range, and tonal quality are all great. There are no cracks or breaks in his voice. Hear Neighbors Know My Name. See the crazy vocal range this guy has. But is he a good artist? The stuff he sings about is practically meaningless and empty. I agree with that.

  3. I’m reading this article late. But I’ve seen Trey in concert a couple of times and dude really can sing. He has a lot of vibrato, but he can sing. And has great range. His problem is his breath control. Also, he has stage fright when he goes on TV. Some artist are better performing for their fans than on TV. Maxwell has that problem too.
    I work as a speech therapist specializing in voice, and Trey displays all the signs of stage fright. His breath is shortened, he gets sweaty, etc. And his vibrato gets way out of control.
    As far as the “talk-singing”, that didn’t come into play until his album “Ready”. And R. Kelly did a lot of that.
    I want to know: have you listened to his first two albums? I have, And dude can really sing. And I saw him live during that time. He sang with faulty audio equipment and all, and could sing. I remember when he opened for Ne-yo, and sang circles around Ne-yo as well. I think it’s interesting. Before, Trey blew up, EVERYONE thought Trey was underrated and NO ONE questioned his vocals. Now, that he’s blown up, everyone does. I guess it comes with the territory of fame.
    And Trey can sing much better than Chris Brown. Much better. But that’s just my opinion.

    1. I’ve listened to all of Trey’s work. Your valuable feedback offers an interesting take on his singing that I never considered before. I’ll go back and critically review his work with your perspective in mind. Thank you!

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