In June 2020, Vincint Cannady sequestered himself alone in a room — his only company was his fiercest demons. “My therapist told me to write down all the things that I needed to confront, and then to confront them,” he explains over video call from his Los Angeles home. “At first, I was like, ‘Easy for you to say, sis.’ But I did.” The pop singer bought 100 index cards and wrote down “everything and everyone and every little moment” that he needed to address in his own life. “I called people, and I had really intense, awkward, uncomfortable conversations. I even had uncomfortable conversations with myself,” he says. "Talking to someone is great, but if you can't sit with yourself and have honest conversation about what's wrong with you first, it's going to be pretty hard to come clean to someone else.” It took me two months. At the end of it, I had a bunch of song ideas, and a clear vision of what I wanted to say.”
It took Cannady — who goes by VINCINT — two months to exorcise his demons, and the end result was There Will Be Tears, his debut album and most significant milestone since he first wowed the judges of Fox's singing competition show The Four in 2018, dropped his 2020 EP The Feeling, and released his trailer track “Be Me” for season 5 of Netflix's Queer Eye.
“I’d had a really tough past three years,” VINCINT says. “I went through a lot of loss and felt like I was missing that spark that I had.” He notes that this experience isn’t singular to him; during the pandemic, “everyone else had a moment like that.” But he says, “I figured I should write something that says, at the end of all this shit, of course there are going to be tears. Hopefully, though, it will be the first time in a new era where you understand that, even in the midst of all this chaos, there's still some good. Life goes on, you know?”
Pain is such a strong emotion. But love is too, so why not put them both together? I can hurt and still feel good.
An album with a title like There Will Be Tears sounds like it merits a deep breath before diving in. And yes, he could've easily gone full Sam Smith-style wallowing for 10 tracks. But that’s not VINCINT. He doesn’t shut down when he’s scared — in fact, he says scary things “excite” him. Even when he’s talking about struggle and heartbreak, he’s still animated; His brown eyes keep their striking luminescent quality. And when he’s singing about the same themes — musing on what could’ve been in “What If,” or helplessly trying to break free of the grip of an old love in “Hard 2 Forget” — his tenor soars. The beat is neither heavy, nor does it saunter along: It moves forward with urgency, but not panic. There’s joy amid all the pain.
“I think I would be doing a disservice to myself to only think that the sad moments should deserve the spotlight,” VINCINT says. “It's like, Sure, we broke up. Sure, it broke my heart. God, I want you back. But holy shit did we have beautiful moments.” He pauses, continuing, “We tend to focus on the sad things because they hurt so much. Pain is such a strong emotion. But love is too, so why not put them both together? I can hurt and still feel good. I can still be angry and be excited. You know? It's not just one thing. It's not just one feeling. It's important to honour that.”
Most music, especially pop, translates emotions into a binary: Happy, upbeat dance songs or sad ballads. But that’s not VINCINT’s way. His music shows that there's a comfort in embracing the happy-sad non-binary — knowing that even as you tread through difficult moments and feelings, there is still momentum.
Being open and vulnerable has never been hard for VINCINT. You can see it in his body — even through a screen, he leans in confidently when he talks. Growing up in Philadelphia, where his late father sang in a gospel group, his Baptist household was filled with two constants: good music and good communication. “My mom gave me the greatest gift growing up, which was just letting me be. She’d say, ‘I'm not going to tell you who you are. I'm not going to tell you what to believe, and I'm not going to tell you what you should do. What I will do is teach you what's right and what's wrong, and you know what's right, so just do right,’ he says. “That was a beautiful lesson for me to learn at a young age because I could come to her and tell her, ‘I'm really sad, and this is why I'm sad.’ And maybe that day she’d make me sad, and she'd talk with me openly about it.”
Much of VINCINT’s first memories of music were old hymns, or hearing his father and his fellow gospel group members singing four-part harmonies in his living room. “For me, I think my love of people and my love of love and romanticism and empathy comes from religion and the way that it was taught to me by my dad and my grandmother,” he says. But one day, as VINCINT sat in the backseat of his father’s white and blue Cadillac, singing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me” from 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife on the radio, his father realized his son actually had talent. “He drove me right to a record store and bought me the Preacher's Wife soundtrack,” he says fondly. “That’s when I fell in love with pop — especially pop divas.”
It was Whitney. It was Mariah. Patti LaBelle. Aretha. Celine Dion (“my mom's favourite”). Then, of course, Beyoncé. “With all these women I was like, Oh, I want to sound like this. I love how there's so much emotion in her voice, and that she’s standing in her truth unapologetically.” he says. So by the time that VINCINT wrote his first song in high school — about a boy who he loved and lost — he was already channeling the kind of fierce heartbreak pop of the women he grew up listening to. Years later, that song eventually turned into “Remember Me,” one of the first he ever released. “It’s hella dramatic and super sad, but it was also my first glimpse into what songwriting really should be. It's telling an honest story and hoping that another human being connects to it.”
Even though VINCINT pictured himself as the next Beyoncé (“I will be in a salon and latex paint boots, hitting the moves”), it was hard not to see himself truly reflected in any other pop icons. “I didn't see myself in the media at the time. There were no famous Black gay pop stars. Sure, they were out there, but they just weren't out there.”
Then came Billy Porter. “I heard him on the First Wives Club soundtrack when I was 14 or 15,” he says. “‘Love Is on the Way’ was one of my favourite songs, and when I looked him up I was like, There she is. It was my first time seeing someone who was not only my complexion, but was flamboyant and out. There was no hiding it. He wasn’t like, ‘I'm going to put myself away a little bit just to make you feel comfortable.’ I needed that."
VINCINT learned to embody that very same kind of unabashed queer joy, which now fuels both his music and everyday life. “To me, it’s all about revelling in who I am,” he asserts. “It's taking ownership of that and being okay with letting others see that and not being ashamed of it. A lot of us spend a lot of time hiding ourselves away out of fear that it may be too much for people. But I really, really enjoy me. I know that might sound crazy to hear, but it shouldn't. Do you know how much you would get done in your life if you thought you were great? Do you know how much fun you'd have on a daily basis if you thought you were beautiful?
“My queer joy is my mindset and how much I love being who I am and how that is the constant daily work in progress,” he says. “You may have a pimple, but you're dope. There's always going to be something in the way, but damn — you’ve got to really like yourself to get through this life.”
Too often, the Black and queer experiences we hear and see onscreen and on the stage centre stories of pain and hardship. Queer, Black joy is hard to come by. That’s why VINCINT is on a constant quest for More. “I'm Black, I know I'm gay,” he says, “but it is not all that I am.” He takes a beat.n“Sometimes it feels like the world is like, Why would you be happy? But why wouldn't I? It's not fair to only show the pain and how we ‘overcame.’ Our whole lives shouldn't be about overcoming, because goddammit, it's tiring.”
There Will Be Tears opens with VINCINT’s vocals. No backing track, no beat. Just layers of light, ethereal ahs. They could be grounding breaths. Or perhaps they are the deep, sharp gasps of air that live between sobs. The next minute crescendos into a soaring orchestral melody that cradles the singer’s words as he prepares listeners for what’s to come. Because while there will certainly be tears, there will also be joy — and dancing. Lots of dancing.