Just a Taste, 2007
Lust, Love & Time: The Death of a Man, 2005
Commin' up Round Tha Corner: Greatest Hits vol. 1, 2004
His face is red. A layer of sweat collects on his forehead. He sits on a swivel chair, a big man, rosy complexion, cropped hair and brown goatee.
He calls himself You(genious), the misfit of R&B, and he's like a white D'Angelo dropping sweet grooves and aggressive come-ons that make the ladies smile.
"This is where the magic happens," he says.
He transformed a room in his Montrose-area apartment into a fully functional music studio. He built a Plexiglas sound booth; microphones, cables and props are strewn across the room.
One of his CDs, "Lust, Love, and Time: The Death of a Man," sits on his desk. The inside cover features a portrait of him - and his generous belly - covered only by a straw hat.
He wasn't always this unabashed.
In grade school, he was the invisible fat kid without any confidence or game. In sixth grade, he joined the choir and wasn't particularly good, susceptible to stage fright and unable to carry a tune. But there was something about holding a microphone that changed him and changed how girls reacted to him.
After high school, he started listening to Puff Daddy. The liner notes led him to old-school soul, and that led him to write "Sex on a Spoon," a slow, sweaty, electronic tale of seduction. When he was 20, he started singing at clubs around Houston.
He thinks about that, then slides into a story about a performance at The Mink, a Houston bar.
"This girl was really feeling me," he says. He pressed her against the wall and started "doing all sorts of crazy (stuff).
"And this guy, probably her boyfriend, grabs me by the neck and slams me.
"It was pretty crazy," he says, proudly.
"I guess what I've learned from You(genious) is that women like aggression and they like romance."
He swivels a little on his chair. For a man of seduction, or perhaps because he is a man of seduction, he doesn't smile much.
"I am the most romantic man I know," he says, deadly serious.
A little past 11 p.m., the lights are dim and the stage is set. A purple candle and a woven metal basket filled with lollipops sit atop a round Parisian table.
You(genious) is behind the stage at Super Happy Fun Land, an East End club that values irreverence and comedy.
Most of the theater seats are empty, except for a handful of men and three or four women. You(genious) paces back and forth, waiting for his introduction. He tugs at his silky vest; he adjusts his black suit; he pulls out a white handkerchief and wipes the nervous sweat off his brow and around his neck.
But as soon as the DJ calls his name, his demeanor transforms. He marches onstage with long, manly strides, his hips swiveling, exaggerated breaths punctuating each step.
The music is slow, dripping with smooth jazz drum and bass.
"If you ever need to get some / baby look no further than me ... yeah," he sings in a low growl . "If you want love and affection / then wrapped up in my arms you ought to be."
He steps off the stage and makes eye contact with two women in the front row. The younger one gives him an amused look, until he moves closer and reaches for her coat collar. She looks surprised, maybe even a little afraid.
You(genious) says women are scared for the first half of the show. Then when things get warmed up, when it comes time to bring out the lollipops, they accept his advances.
Perhaps the reason an audience reacts that way is because a man like him - chubby and sweaty - isn't supposed to be overt with his sexuality. But because he is, it gives everyone in the audience permission to unleash their id.
This night, the show is over in less than 30 minutes. But You(genious) manages to make at least one heart race.
Marta Elizondo, a woman in her 40s, sits next to him after the performance. She smiles and enjoys her lollipop.
"It's inspirational to see a man up there just singing," she says.
She looks at him lustfully and throws her arms around him.
"I've been single so long," she says, "just having a man next to me makes the lollipop taste better and better."
Offstage, You(genious) waits tables at Chuy's. He's in his late 20s and says he has a younger brother who rivals him in romanticism and a father who couldn't be more clueless when it comes to matters of the heart.
"While I'm onstage, I get my ass grabbed at least twice a show," he says. "And that never happens in real life."
Offstage, he's a guy who takes it one lady at a time; he's a guy who'll watch a romantic comedy, if it makes a lady happy, a guy who'll open doors and go on picnics and pick fresh flowers if it makes a lady swoon.
Offstage, You(genious) knows part of his act is kitsch and comedy. Still, he's the unlikely fat dude hot girls might want to be with.
He looks at himself. He feels pretty good. He thinks people can take a lesson, especially this Valentine's Day.
"People need to be more confident in themselves," he says. "I didn't have confidence, but something came over me. I got tired of being not looked at."
And from the cocoon of social isolation emerged You(genious), a man so comfortable in his plump body, he dares to hand lollipops to strangers of the female persuasion.
-- Eyder Peralta | February 14, 2008