Anita Baker says the working title for her next album, "21st Century Love," reflects both the music and lyrical tone of her first new release in six years.
"The title came out of the recording process," Baker, who worked at studios in Los Angeles and Nashville for the Nov. 9 release, tells Billboard.com. "I couldn't decide whether I was going to do analog to digital, whether I was going to do straight digital...So it occurred to me as a musician, as a singer, just as a person I am straight-up analog, but that I'm in a digital world, and so I decided to do both."
As for the lyrics, Baker says that "21st Century Love's" planned 10 tracks follow a loose theme based on her experience as a single woman in the wake of her 2008 divorce from Walter Bridgforth, the father of her two teenage sons, after nearly 20 years of marriage.
"I'm out here and it's almost impossible to connect," Baker explains, "and people are saying, 'You need to get online. You need to get a dating service.' I'm like, 'Are you serious?' I mean, I don't even have voice mail, and people get all out of shape about that. But, you know what, I don't want to transcribe your message; I want to talk to you. And that kind of freaks people out a bit. They go, 'Oh, who has time to talk?' and I'm like, 'Well, I'm gonna make time.' "
Baker worked on "21st Century Love" with producers such as Nathan East, Harvey Mason, Jr., and Danny Moore. She worked with East's group Four Play on a version of the early 1930s love song "You're My Thrill" that was arranged by keyboardist Bob James. She also recreated Tyrese Gibson's 1999 hit "Lately," luring the actor/singer out of musical semi-retirement.
"He was like, 'I was 12 years old when I sang that, and I can't even get to that key anymore,' " Baker recalls. "And I'm like, 'We'll change the key!' This is something I did out of love and wanting Tyrese to sing because he's in the movies and he's just kind of abandoned his singing."
"21st Century Love's" most surprising song, meanwhile, is a rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love" with Snoop Dogg. The two wound up recording the song on the rapper's wedding anniversary. "He came back with this dialogue that just shook us," says Baker, who wrote a new bridge for the song as well. "It just talks about being a grown man with a grown woman, and it was beautiful and poetic and a really special moment."
Baker performs Aug. 26 in Vienna, Va., and at home on Aug. 28 in Independence Township, Mich., outside of Detroit. After that she plans to "shut down in the fall and...do a couple of choice dates at Christmas," spending time instead to focus on shooting videos and other promotion for "21st Century Love." A full track listing and first single are expected to be announced soon.