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Tweet: The songbird returns


NEW YORK songbird Charlene Keys, better known as Tweet, is one of the most talented vocalists in the music game – and yet the breadth of her ability has not always been acknowledged as it could have been in the mainstream sphere.

Her 2002 debut single Oops, a timeless track about self-love, catapulted the songstress not only into the industry, but the hearts of music lovers all around the world. And through further classics, including the club smash Boogie 2nite and the sultry slow jams Taxi and Smoking Cigarettes, Tweet solidified her position as one of R&B’s most gifted singers.

Fast-forward to 2016, 14 years on from her debut, and a generation of music lovers still think of her – rather than the Twitter posting format – whenever they hear the word ‘Tweet’.

It’s quite a testament to the singer’s impact, particularly when one considers the lengthy hiatus she took from the industry.

Her debut album Southern Hummingbird was released in 2002 to rave reviews, and was followed up with It’s Me Again in 2005, which didn’t perform as well, due to, the singer explains, a lack of support from her then-label, Atlantic Records.

It was at this point that Tweet started to become disenchanted with the music industry and as such, she decided to take some time out. It would be over a decade before she’d release her next album, 2016’s Charlene.

Of her hiatus, Tweet explains: “I was signed to Elektra and around this time, it was in that transitional period where it was it being merged with Atlantic. There were people working with me who didn’t really know me. And it was more of a hip-hop label so I didn’t really have much support.”

“I felt discouraged and spiritually, I wasn’t in a good place,” the mother-of-one continues. “In order to get my life together, I had to step away from it all, you know, be mum.

“But in that break, I released a few EPs here and there. I was still writing and in the studio.”

The album Charlene was officially released in February of this year. The stripped back, self-titled project marked a re-introduction of the singer and a solid return into the music industry.

“I called the album Charlene because you’ll hear everything that inspired me musically, growing up,” the 44-year-old explains. “You’re going to come on a journey with me. The album has that soulful inspiration.

“I wanted to bring soul and R&B music back into the business. I fell out of love with music, both as a consumer and an artist, because the scene was turning towards stuff that wasn’t really talent, like auto tune, and this was overshadowing the real stuff.”

Charlene sees Tweet reunite with the producers who worked on her first two albums – Charlie Bereal, Jubu Smith, Nisan Stewart, Craig Brockman and Timbaland.

However, there is only one collaboration on the 15-track effort – Somebody Else Will, featuring her friend and long-time musical colleague, Missy Elliott.

MAMA’S GIRL: Tweet (left) with her daughter Tashawna

The softly spoken artist says: “I didn’t wanna do too many collaborations, given that I’d been away for so long. I just wanted to showcase myself.”

Charlene, the woman, is in a much happier, healthier and more encouraged place these days. From her days of drinking and smoking every day, to quitting those habits and “getting herself together,” the singer is now in a more positive frame of mind.

“I’m more confident in who I am as an artist, as a woman and overall,” Tweet affirms. “This is what reflects in my music”.

Having also been outspoken about her celibacy and her decision to remain single in the past, speculation arose earlier this year about a new love interest for Tweet – namely controversial US pastor and TV host, Jamal Bryant. The word was that they had been quietly dating for the best part of a year.

On an episode of his show The Preachers, aired in July of this year, Bryant refered to Tweet as his “last lady”, to rapturous applause from the studio audience.

Chuckling shyly, the singer confirms: “Yes, it’s true, we are together”.

Tweet recently commented about being approached by naysayers, who insist that she’s not “Godly enough” to be dating a pastor. Given the longstanding debate about whether secular music should have any place in a Christian lifestyle, does Tweet feel pressure to make a full transition into gospel music? “Not at all,” she insists. “I have a relationship with God and my process is getting more spiritual now. I’ve been on that journey for a while. I started out singing in the church and I’m influenced by it. You can definitely hear that kind of sound on the album.”

Following in Tweet’s footsteps is her 26-year-old daughter Tashawna, who is also a singer. And there’s also another branch to the family tree, as Tweet is also a grandma.

But in among the singer’s family responsibilities is her re-ignited focus on her music career.

“I’m still in that zone of wanting to put out timeless music that can help and inspire people – real people, who are actually going through stuff,” she says. “At this point, I am more in tune with who I am.”

Charlene is out now on eOne Music. Tweet will perform at Dingwalls, Middle Yard, Camden Lock, London NW1 on September 26. For more information, visit

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