Brother of John Legend is ready for his star to shine

For years now, Anthony has been predicting the imminent release of his debut album — the album that will vault him to fame alongside his older brother, homegrown R&B star John Legend.

There’s no doubt the cat can sing.

When the brothers duet, it’s honestly tough to tell who’s singing.

But having two guys from Springfield who specialize in ooey, gooey, old-school soul can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Besides, this isn’t a case of Jermaine trying hopelessly to match Michael’s success in the ’80s.

Think of Vaughn as the Janet to John’s Michael.

Think about it now. That’s high praise, really.

All along, though, Anthony has had a stock answer to, “When?”

“I’m just waiting for my brother to put it out,” he’d say, as he last did to the News-Sun in 2009.

If there’s any real similarity between Anthony and that guy who kept scheduling the end of days, it’s this — neither man could actually control anything.

“I’m out to prove something now,” Anthony declared recently from the unassuming brick house here in town where he’s lived for years with his kids and wife of more than a decade.

At the age of 30 — and now the father of four — it seems as good of a time as any for the second coming of Vaughn Anthony.

He’s parted ways with Legend’s label, HomeSchool Records, and is using popular innovations in technology to finally make a go at a career.

“Right now,” he said, “the Internet is going nuts over the song Johnny and I wrote.

“They’re eatin’ it up on the blogs.”

“Once we hit ’em with this Rick Ross song,” he added, making another prediction, “it’s over.”

The song in question written and performed with his Grammy-winning brother is “Hold Me Down.”

Within days of its release online late last month, Vibe.com was highlighting it and linking to it.

This is Anthony’s new strategy — get the music out there, hope it goes viral and let the people judge.

Before, he spent years trying to win over record executives who said he sounded too much like Legend.

“The genetics of his voice, he can’t help that,” family patriarch Ron Stephens said. “That’s family.”

While Legend indeed had started his own label — Anthony was his second signing after Grammy-winning rapper-singer Estelle — the operation relies on outside sources for distribution.

“Before,” Anthony said, “I was just John’s brother who’s a background singer who sounds like him.”

“The people who know me,” he added, “know that I’m as official as a referee’s whistle.”

As a father, it’s been both exciting and hard for Ron Stephens to watch one son speed ahead while the other stays in neutral.

“I feel his frustration,” Ron Stephens said. “The odds of having two Michael Jacksons is pretty rare.”

But since launching his social-media blitz six months ago, Anthony has delivered two songs, “Curiosity” and the duet with Legend, “Hold Me Down.”

A track featuring star rapper Rick Ross is on deck.

Locally, he’s upped his presence as well, singing the national anthem before Wittenberg home basketball games and singing at the new hospital.

“I’ve been holding onto all this good music for a long time,” Anthony said.

In the case of his collaboration with Ross, it’s been almost three years since the track was recorded.

In theory, the North High grad formerly known as Vaughn Stephens shouldn’t have to record any new music for, oh, give or take 15 years.

He has 150 songs recorded and ready to go, featuring the likes of Ross, Prodigy from the rap duo Mobb Deep and former G-Unit singer Olivia, one of the stars of VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop.”

The split a year ago with his brother’s label was mutual, he said.

“That happens,” Anthony said. “People get signed and people get shelved. I still love my brother just the same.”

Even still, the split, coupled with an unsuccessful audition for NBC’s “The Voice,” sent Anthony into a period of reflection.

“You have to dig deep,” he confessed.

“I went through some spiritual cleaning.”

The wait, he thinks, has been worth it.

“I’ve grown as an artist,” he said, “and as a person.”

In the end, though, it’s Dad who can best sum up the saga of Vaughn Anthony.

“His success,” Ron Stephens said, “has to be his success.”

Contact this reporter at amcginn@coxohio.com.

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