“As long as you keep your head to the sky...you will win!”
I think Blackness is winning right now because we have some cool news to start your week off right! The Root has exclusively learned that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will be presenting Sounds of Blackness and Ann Nesby as they perform Sounds of Blackness’ critically acclaimed hit, “Optimistic” at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs)! And that’s not all! They’ll be performing remotely from Paisley Park—yes, that’s right, the beloved home of the late Purple One himself, Prince.
In addition to the performance location being cool as hell, I’m pretty damn geeked because “Optimistic” (which Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced) is one of my favorite feel-good songs—specifically, I love to play and sing it while I’m in the shower. The uplifting jam, which debuted in 1991, is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!
But, back to the location—there’s definitely some additional significance here as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will be sharing this moment in their home state. Though Ann Nesby was born in Joliet, IL, she is the former lead singer of Sounds of Blackness, which originated in Minnesota. Plus, this performance will bring some much-needed Black joy to an area that has had encountered such tragedy in the last year, including the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
“‘Optimistic’ is as timely today as it was when God handed us the pen to write it and placed Sounds of Blackness in front of us to deliver it,” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis told The Root in a joint statement. “So as we celebrate 50 years of the Sounds of Blackness as a group and 30 years of ‘Optimistic’ as a song we’re doing it in a year that’s about coming together and healing from the diseases of racism and COVID. ‘Optimistic’ is the soundtrack and a much-needed and appreciated sonic medicine.”
In case you missed it, The Root already reported on the nominations so make sure you catch that blog to see who you can root for this year (The Weeknd, Megan Thee Stallion, Drake and Saweetie to name a few) and one of the nominees Drake will be receiving a special honor—the Artist of the Decade Award.
As for Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Sounds of Blackness and Ann Nesby, Billboard has provided The Root with a few fun facts:
● JIMMY JAM & TERRY LEWIS
○ Jam & Lewis have produced more No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other production team in history — 16.
○ They have written and/or produced Hot 100 No. 1s such as Janet Jackson’s “When I Think Of You,” “Miss You Much” and “All For You,” The Human League’s “Human,” George Michael’s “Monkey,” Usher’s “U Remind Me” and Mariah Carey’s “Thank God I Found You,” featuring Joe and 98 Degrees.
○ Jam & Lewis recently got their first top 10 single as artists, when “He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It,” with Babyface, hit the top five on the Adult R&B Airplay chart.
● SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS
○ Six top 40 charting albums on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart.
○ 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart including the No. 3-peaking hit “Optimistic.”
○ Two No. 1s on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart: “The Pressure, Pt. 1” and “I Believe.”
○ Nine hits on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart, including two top 10s.
● ANN NESBY
○ 11 hits on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart, including two No. 1s: “I’m Still Wearing Your Name” and “Put It On Paper,” featuring Al Green.
○ Five top 10s on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, including the No. 1 “Lovin’ Is Really My Game.”
○ Co-wrote Patti LaBelle’s “The Right Kinda Lover,” a top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
The 2021 Billboard Music Awards will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on May 23 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.
Update: 5/22/2021, 6:04 p.m. ET: We received an official update that “due to creative changes and planning in motion, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will be presenting the performance of Sounds of Blackness ft. Ann Nesby from Paisley Park.” We have reflected this in our article above.