Before Justin, before Robin, there was Jon B. After four years away from the spotlight, the original blue-eyed soul singer returns with his new album Helpless Romantic, available in stores and online Tuesday.

Love is at the epicenter of his latest project. “I think people can feel my energy in a very deep way, and when people hear this album they’re gonna understand what I mean. You can expect a really romantic atmosphere. I simplified it back to my roots,” says the 33-year-old. “Straight up R&B.”

Jon calls “The Ride of Our Lives,” a duet with his artist Jonesii, the album’s most personal record in which he sings about the moments before his daughter’s birth.

But it’s been a minute since the Rhode Island native debuted in 1995 and other white R&B vocalists are clamoring for his position. “I would definitely say I knocked down some of the barriers that existed in music. I don’t think they had to deal with energies quite as hostile, in terms of being a white cat in a predominantly black industry,” Jon explains when asked if he believes he’s paved the way for other blue-eyed soul singers.

An R&B cat for life, Jon is focused on keeping the genre alive and thriving. “It’s the essence of what we do, the emotion in what we do that makes it valid.”

Jon B. will perform Monday night at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 21st Anniversary Awards Dinner in New York. Visit his official website at JonBmusic.com.

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