Bound by their love of music and their undeniable talent, these four Chicago natives came together three years ago and overcame all the obstacles that littered their road to success. After a few detours and more than a few roadblocks, the guys found themselves face to face with the biggest R&B superstar in the world and, much to their delight, he liked what he saw. "Two years ago we got the opportunity to showcase for Usher," Jon recalls. "He could tell that we were already polished. We had been working so hard for so long and it must have shown on stage because we were chosen by Usher over several other acts who showcased for him and his staff that day."
Usher signed One Chance to his label, US Records, and began the diligent task of developing them as only Usher can do. The multi-platinum, Grammy-winning artist said he saw reflections of himself in the group. "As an artist, I know what it takes to be successful," Usher says. "I know what it takes to make a mark and have longevity. As a label owner, I want my artists to possess those same qualities. One Chance does. I have no doubt that these guys have what it takes to not only live up to the great R&B legends of the past, but to have the same kind of respect and longevity that many of those greats still enjoy today." There's no question that One Chance in next in a long lineage of great R&B male groups. "We got a mean swagger," says 21-year-old Courtney Vantrease, describing the group's uniqueness. "It's a Chicago swagger but it's real and we've got things that you will remember from previous groups, like little things you might remember from Jodeci and Boyz II Men."
Jon adds, "One thing that will set us apart from other groups is that most of them are missing something. Some of them can dance but aren't that strong vocally or maybe they can sing but they're not solid entertainers but with this group we cover the whole spectrum. We're not trying to be something we're not. We can sing. For real. Take away all the music, all the beats, you can even take away the microphones and you will hear natural voices blending in harmony." Hearing them sing Ôfor real' is the treat listeners get when they lend an ear to any of the songs featured on the group's debut CD.
The lead single, "Look At Her," featuring D4L's Fabo, serves up a refreshing new style called Snap & B. "It's something new we're trying," explains Courtney. "I think we're probably the first guy group to do this. The snap movement is really strong right now so we just decided to incorporate some R&B into it. It's just all about giving people something fresh." Produced by Chocolate Star and Soundz, the song conjures up images of a club scene and a group of men eyeing a special lady who has captivated them with her sexy dance moves.
The guys covet a special lady yet again in the melodic midempo joint "Private," featuring Akon, and extol her virtues on vocally superior "Don't Stop." Shondrae aka Bangladesh (Ludacris, 8Ball & MJG) takes production credits on "Emotional." Notes member Rob Brent, 19, "I think it's one of our hottest songs and it shows the versatility of the group." Adds Jon, "The song is about a guy whose girl is about to leave him and he doesn't know what to do so he runs after her and becomes very emotional."
The group's music creates various nuances. The songs are alternately bright and fun and dark and pensive. "We have some really bright voices. We have a couple of dark records but for the most part it's a young feel, youthful but not too young and not too old either. It's right down the middle."
Adds Jon's brother Michael, 22, "Some of the songs address situations that young people are going through in relationships and in life in general." Just as their songs run the gamut of styles and emotions, the personalities of the group's members and the talent they possess covers all the bases. "Rob is the young guy with the non-stop dancing, the popping and locking all over the stage," offers Jon. "He has the spunk and a voice that sounds like he's got auto tune on it. He's the guy that likes to riff and run you down the street."
"Jon's the spokesman of the group," says Courtney. "He's the gel that keeps everything together. He keeps our business tight, keeps us practicing and on stage he's the improviser and the one in the group who has the most hip hop flavor."
"Courtney is the quiet, smooth entertainer," chimes in Rob. "He's young but grown and sexy too. Out of all of us he has that in-between look that can go in either direction." "And Mike is that sexy, fly dude," notes Courtney. "Mike is the one that'll take his shirt off on stage and go wild. He's like Jekyll and Hyde."
The mutual love and respect that the members of One Chance have for each other have sustained them through some very trying times over the years, times that often found them chasing down one elusive opportunity after another. "It's been a real rough grind," recalls Courtney. "We left home, sold CDs to rent a van to go to New York and went to different record labels to perform. We all stayed in one hotel room or when we didn't have enough money we all slept in the van." Undaunted, the group packed up the Gordon brothers' not-too-dependable van and hit the road to Atlanta for Usher's showcase. "Even after going through ups and downs we took it upon ourselves to drive down to Atlanta where we slept on the floor in a cold studio, going daily without eating. It's been a struggle but we've gotta say it's been a blessing and it allows us to appreciate everything that's going to come to us even more."
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