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Hear Maxwell's new song "Lake by the Ocean"

“I hope people don’t hate me for taking so long,” the Grammy-winning R&B singer says.

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Seven years after he released the first of a three-part trilogy, BLACKsummers’night, R&B singer Maxwell is back with a new single, “Lake by the Ocean,” the first track off his hugely anticipated set blackSUMMERS’night, due out July 1.

Perhaps the sexiest slow jam of the year so far, “Lake by the Ocean” is a track that’s been several years in the making, the singer tells EW, and a comeback song he wanted to get just right.

“When it started, it was a much slower jam,” says Maxwell, who has rebounded from cancelling a tour in 2012 due to vocal hemorrhaging. “But it’s interesting because I can say for a fact — and I hope people don’t hate me for taking so long [to release new music] — but I want my real life to be in these songs. I don’t want them to be written [quickly]. I’m not a typical sort of pop artist. I’m not really concerned about being No. 1. But at the end of the day, I want to surprise people a little bit. So hopefully there will be some element of surprise.”

The Grammy-winning artist — whose last album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts — says he took as much painstaking effort for the other cuts on the album. “It’s so different,” he says. “It’s not just beats or something. We definitely have some sonic movements that will be quite surprising to people, more uptempo feel, because as the title says, the word summer is emphasized [in capital letters]. And the slow jams have a harder edge.”

As for the title of his new single, eagle-eyed music heads might notice a similarity to DNCE’s Top 10 hit “Cake by the Ocean,” but Maxwell says the play on words with “Lake by the Ocean” was unintentional. “Not at all!” he says with a laugh, adding that he’s pals with DNCE frontman Joe Jonas. “This song has been years in the making. I had no idea!”

When it comes to the rest of the songs on the upcoming album, expect plenty more baby-making jams. It’s a musical skill at which Maxwell has mastered — and one he’s comfortable with. “It’s so cool though to be around to do something that affects lives in certain ways,” he says. “It’s fantastic.”