Emerging Artists Spotlight: Tank and the Bangas

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Welcome to Emerging Artists Spotlight, a new Billboard series where we highlight a musician who has recently made his or her debut on the Emerging Artists chart. Whether they are new to the industry, or have been around for a while but are just starting to have a chart impact, the intention is to showcase where they are here and now. This week’s pick is R&B/funk/neo-soul group Tank and the Bangas, who debuted at No. 34 on the chart.


Tank and the Bangas, a five-piece funk/soul group, debut on the Emerging Artists chart thanks to its sophomore album Green Balloon (released May 3 Verve Forecast Records), which likewise arrives on the Heatseekers Albums chart at No. 3.

The New Orleans-based group consists of members Tarriona "Tank" Ball on on lead vocals, Merell Burkett Jr. on keyboard, Joshua Johnson on drums, Albert Allenback on alto saxophone and flute, and Norman Spence on bass and synth keys. In 2017, Tank and the Bangas were named as the winners of the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest after showcasing their ability to blend jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and spoken word into a musical performance and capture audiences with their unique energy. 

Known for their collaborative work on developing innovative hip-hop/soul/poetry/R&B sounds in their music, the group's recently-released sophomore album Green Balloon takes listeners through a sonic journey of emotion, being vulnerable, and identity. 

Green Balloon is the group's second studio album and comes after their 2013 debut project Thinktank. Green Balloon reflects the group's dynamic and versatile trajectory, while staying true to the soul-infused roots heard on Thinktank. The project’s title takes its inspiration from the band's experiences growing up, and features a myriad of different talents and sounds.

Tracks like "Hot Air Balloons" get to the core of the album’s theme: experiencing life and emotions through the color green; to feel green with envy, green with naiveté, and other interpretations. Tank sings smoothly on the chorus: "Hot air balloon/ Don't you go up too soon/ Feel the green air, taste green water/ I'm lost in all the color."

Green Balloon feels like all your teenage years bottled up in one album. We were able to express all the colors we felt going through all those experiences up until now," Tank tells Billboard. "I was afraid to make this album; afraid that there would be too many chefs in the kitchen and no work would get done. To my surprise, it was one of our most creative times together. We thoroughly enjoyed making this album because it’s a piece of all of us.”

“Our music is for the open minded and open hearted," Tank adds. "Our live shows open your eyes and our album opens your heart. No matter what anybody says, this is the album that we wanted.”

Tank, Merell, and Joshua all hail from New Orleans, while Albert is from Montgomery, Alabama, and Norman calls Baltimore home.

Learn more about Tank and the Bangas below.

Names: Tarriona “Tank” Ball (Lead Vocalist) 

Merell Burkett Jr (Keyboard)

Joshua Johnson (Drums)

Albert Allenback (Saxophone and Flute)

Norman Spence II (Bass and Synth Keys)

Ages: 25 (Albert) to 35 (Norman)

Recommended songs: “Hot Air Balloons” and “Forgetfulness.”

What's next: Tons of tour and festival dates, including stops at Boston Calling and Firefly.


Past Emerging Artists Spotlights: J.S. Ondara | Delain | Mabel | Kiana Lede | I Am They | Bear's Den