Tamia Returns After Six-Year Hiatus With 'Beautiful Surprise'
Tamia Returns After Six-Year Hiatus With 'Beautiful Surprise'

Six years have elapsed since Tamia's last album, but the singer/songwriter is picking up right where she left off.

The R&B artist's fifth album, "Beautiful Surprise," debuted at No. 6 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart following its Aug. 28 release. Marking her fourth top 10 on that chart, the album currently holds the No. 18 spot on the tally. Meanwhile, its namesake lead single stands at No. 5 on Adult R&B. Also a top 30 hit on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, the single is Tamia's biggest Adult R&B hit since "Officially Missing You" topped the chart in 2003.

"Considering I don't have a television show or anything else like that pushing the music, this is definitely a testament to R&B and its fans," Tamia says of her project's success. "Fans are out there supporting the music."

The success is even sweeter, given the fact that Beautiful Surprise is Tamia's first project on her own label, Plus 1 Music Group, distributed by Capitol/EMI.

Recorded in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville, the 11-song set showcases Tamia's five-octave range and genre versatility. She effortlessly segues from the bright soulfulness of the Salaam Remi-produced title track to a gut-stirring, inspirational number ("Because of You"), then back to dancefloor rhythms ("Lose My Mind"). What may come as a surprise to many fans is Tamia's penchant for country, winningly displayed on a cover of Wynonna Judd's "Is It Over Yet" as well as a remake of Tamia's own 2004 album track, "Still."

"I've always loved country music," says the Windsor, Ontario, native, who recorded the songs live with a hometown band in a Nashville studio. "I like the challenge of doing things outside the box."

Besides Remi, Tamia tapped producers the Runners (Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige), Luke Laird (Carrie Underwood) and frequent collaborator Shep Crawford (Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston) to help work on the album. In addition to co-writing most of the songs, she doubled as executive producer with Claude Kelly (Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson), marking the first time the pair worked together.

"Tamia is what I like to call a 'dark horse' in terms of singers," Kelly says. "Somewhere in between her albums, people get amnesia about how amazing she is. People are starving for strong, melodic R&B songs that cater to their experiences. That, coupled with Tamia's refreshing voice, reminds them of why they fell in love with her in the first place."

The love affair ignited in 1995 when Tamia's debut single, the Quincy Jones-produced "You Put a Move on My Heart," hit No. 16 on the R&B chart. She has since racked up a string of hits, including "Missing You" (with Brandy, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan), "So Into You," "Stranger in My House" and guest stints on Fabolous' "Into You" (No. 4, Billboard Hot 100) and Eric Benet's "Spend My Life With You" (No. 1, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs).

Tamia begins her opening stint on R. Kelly's Single Ladies tour on Oct. 13; the 22-date trek wraps Dec. 7. There's already a conflict, however. Husband and "Beautiful Surprise" video co-star Grant Hill goes up against the Los Angeles Lakers in his day job as small forward with the L.A. Clippers on Nov. 2 at the Staples Center -- the same evening that Tamia performs at the neighboring Nokia Theatre.

"Maybe I'll have our two daughters come see me first," Tamia says with a laugh. "Between the girls, Grant, the album and touring, trying to be Everywoman takes a lot of work. But I'm blessed to still be making records."