The best thing about Sunday night’s BET Awards? The return of El DeBarge. Looking typically crisp and clean despite his recent incarceration, the singer/songwriter led the crowd through a medley of the hits made famous by his family group DeBarge-“I Like It”, “All This Love”, “Time Will Reveal” and “Rhythm of the Night”. Not only was he hitting impossible falsetto notes without breaking a sweat, but he turned the auditorium into a party with “Rhythm of the Night”, dancing through the crowd and giving dap to John Legend.

Later in the show, he returned to sing a new song called “Second Chance”. During the show, I mentioned that someone needed to give the man a record contract. Little did I know that someone already did, and El’s fifth solo album, also entitled “Second Chance”, is scheduled to be released in September. It will be El’s first solo album in SIXTEEN years. During that time, El has struggled with any number of personal demons. Eldest brother and mentor Bobby DeBarge passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1995, and prior to El’s incarceration, he had long been struggling with drugs. The tragic story of the DeBarge family has been recounted several times, most memorably on the documentary series “Unsung” and in an excellent Vibe article.

I’m pulling for El. Artists (hell, most people in general) have their demons, and everyone deserves another shot. One point raised several times after El’s performance in the blogosphere was what the difference was between someone like El (who has gotten popped more than once for domestic issues) and Chris Brown. Difference #1 is that El seems legitimately contrite and tortured. Difference #2 is that El makes good music. Difference #3 is that El went away for a little while and allowed people to forget about his issues. A legitimate comeback could have been in the works for Chris, but he and his people have shot themselves in the foot MULTIPLE times, and now we may have crossed the point of no return.

Anyhow, enough of that. El’s back. Collaborators on the new album include the legendary Jam and Lewis. Even Ron Fair is on board to bring some of that crossover appeal. Check out the “Second Chance” single (and his new website) here.

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