dirty martini

old music for new people

90s r&b ingenues – some cautionary tales May 1, 2007

in today’s r&b scene there are several artists that you feel like you’ve grown up with. and there is a good reason for that – you have.the rise of teenage r&b singers in the early and mid 90s probably wouldn’t unfold in quite the same way today. it wasn’t entirely a new phenomenon – there have always been child stars but they usually made age appropriate music, or acted younger than their age. but representing real teenagers is a bit more difficult. we know they do the same things as adults, but it’s illegal so we don’t talk about it too much.
before the spice girls changed the rulebook, image and identity were just an added facet of celebrity rather than something you planned in great detail, either to complement talent or disguise a lack of it. it was possible to make music and be a bit vague about who you were and more importantly, how old you were.

the fact that these singers were the same age or even younger than they audience they were targeting, wasn’t immediately apparent. their songs dealt with adult issues, they collaborated with adults and existed within adult spaces. in some cases, this did impact on their personal lives by accelerating their development. we’ll never really know the truth about aaliyah and r.kelly‘s alleged underage marriage, unless it surfaces in the fallout from his court case.

ten 90s jailbait anthemsdownload here

brandy – baby
born 1979, debut 1994 at age 14
poor old brandy. until recently, one of the most successful of the 90s ingenues, having completed 4 successful albums, a tv show, movie and a panel spot on america’s got talent’. after the birth of her first child, her marriage was exposed as fake and she is currently awaiting trial for manslaughter after a crash that killed another driver. we won’t even go into her errant brother ray j, those tapes and the whitney thing…

tevin campbell – can we talk
born 1976, debut 1990 at age 13
‘s first taste was as a guest performer on prince‘s 1990 album ‘graffiti bridge’. a year later, his first album hit and he became an overnight star. he famously dated tatyana ali, both on and off-screen, after a cameo role playing himself in the fresh prince of bel air. there has been considerable speculation about his sexuality and he has been arrested for a george michael-style incident with an undercover cop.

aaliyah – the thing i like

born 1979, debut 1994 age 15
since her tragic death in 2001, aaliyah‘s popularity has spiralled. before, she was a popular yet often overlooked singer on the verge of superstardom as an actress. she blossomed as she broke away from r.kelly and hooked up with visionaries missy elliott and timbaland. aaliyah’s smooth, caramel-like voice sounds even more soothing against many of the melismatic, shrill and shouty copycat acts she’s inspired since.

usher – think of you

born 1978, debut 1993 age 14

in 1991, 13 year old usher‘s appearance on star search led to a contract with laface. precocious beyond his years thanks to an ill-advised internship at bad boy, usher was well known on the circuit by 1992 and in 1993 his first track appeared on the soundtrack to poetic justice. in 1994 he released his eponymous debut, but didn’t hit paydirt until worldwide smash ‘you make me wanna’ in 1998.

monica – angel
born 1980, debut 1995 at age 14

in 1991, 11 year old monica started work on what would become her 1995 debut ‘miss thang‘. an astonishingly mature effort given that fact, it remains her best album to date and stood confidently alongside offerings from more mature artists. like many of her peers, monica has suffered significant personal trauma with the suicide of her boyfriend, and has been criticised recently for dressing her three year old son as a thug. these critics best not visit croydon. despite being only 26 now, she looks much older thanks to a dodgy bleach job.

smooth – mind blowin

born “1979”, debut 1990 age “11”…
ok, something here doesn’t quite add up. if her alleged birth year is correct, mc smooth debuted at age 11 in 1990 with an album produced by her brother, chris stokes who also produced b2k and iMx. we’ll suspend disbelief…in 1993 she recorded a sophomore effort, now as smooth, ‘you been played’, but it was her third album at age 16 in 1995, that broke her. now recording under an alias, ‘needa s’. her real name is juanita stokes if anyone can be bothered to uncover the truth…i hear she was born in 1973 but having viewed a clip on youtube that would have been recorded in 1990, i find it a stretch to believe she was even 17 at the time.

mona lisa – can’t be wasting my time
born 1979, debut 1995 age 16
had no idea she was so young at the time. if she was – she named her debut album ’11-20-79′, her birthdate, so more likely than the aforementioned ms stokes. if that picture’s anything to go by, mona tried a bit too hard to labour the point about her youth by wearing bunches. at the age of 16. her second album was shelved but a comeback is imminent and several tracks have leaked.

destiny’s child – no no no
born 1981/2 – debut 1997 ages 15
so, despite ongoing allegations that beyonce was born as early as 1974, and not 1981 as drilled home during recent bday promotion, it doesn’t seem as odd looking at the rest of this list. after several members and incarnations, which would later prove to be just the tip of the iceberg, their arrival in 1997 heralded the new era of jittery tracks overlaid with rhythmic rather than melodic vocals.

immature – feel the funk
born 1981, debut 1992 age 11
after a childish debut, immature, including future actor and r&b star marques houston, had to wait for their third album and er, puberty, before gaining success in 1995. several years later they realised that their name was perhaps not doing them any favours and they became IMx.

kris kross – i missed the bus
born 1978/79, debut 1992 ages 13/14

research has failed to uncover an earlier example of clothes being worn backwards. therefore, millions of fashion crimes can be traced back to a pair of early teens, both called chris, in 1992. just to clarify, an entire culture took style cues from a 13 and 14 year old. never in 2007. i have resisted the temptation to put ‘jump’ on here. it’s usually played in clubs right after ‘jump around’ if you seriously can’t remember it…


80s brit soul – big hair, smooth grooves

Filed under: 80s,soul — chillijazz @ 10:28 am

uk soul artists in the 80s were not obviously from these shores on first glance. sure, if you listened carefully or read smash hits you would find out soon enough that they were from basildon or wigan rather than minneapolis or atlanta. they didn’t go out of their way to represent britain, maybe because the music wasn’t as distinct as it is today. they dressed like their us counterparts, sounded like them and some even had as much success across the pond.

many of these acts embraced jheri curl soul in all its aesthetic glory, and so visually you probably wouldn’t realise say, that loose ends and midnight star were from different parts of the world. they wore the same metallic suits and piled their hair high on one side (the girls, mostly).

others, well they just did their thing and some endeared themselves to the american record buying public more than the home crowd. critics often believe british artists make cynical attempts to crack the us market by adopting a us-style persona and sound, and that this is the secret of their success. the truth is, they stick out like a sore thumb over there.

what the british acts did have though, despite copycat images and sounds, was a certain sweetness and honesty that shone through their lyrics. most preferred to sing about relationships and avoided the overconfident posturing that captured the essence of the soul glo genre so well.

ten brit soul classics from the 80sdownload here

loose ends – hanging on a string (1985)
loose ends are still held up as shining examples of 80s soul – both here and across the atlantic. this 1985 hit from their second album ‘so where are you’ was one of their many chart successes. one time vocalist trish lewin’s daughter, lisa roxanne, has carried on the family pop legacy in recent years.
royalle delite – i’ll be a freak for you (1983)
not that much is known about this group, although they had several other club hits which I don’t remember but would love to find. great squelchy bass, nonchalant vocals and stop-start percussion.
princess – say i’m your number one (1985)
princess was part of the saw stable…but a million miles from kylie, jason and er, big fun. in 2005 she resurfaced on ‘hit me baby one more time’, miming. vernon kay barely hid his disgust…wish i hadn’t seen it. this was my jam and i nagged my way to a ‘1’ earring like she had in the video. even though it would be another 5 years (of rows) before I was allowed to get my ears pierced.
mica paris – my one temptation (1988)
mica was only 19 when she released her debut album ‘so good’ in 1988 inlcuding a duet with will downing. never quite hitting the big time, her sound heralded a more sophisticated late 80s, like the aural equivalent of a glossy coffee table book, an ideal background to dinner parties and wine bars nationwide. don’t get me wrong, i like mica, but i’ve never been as surprised at her lack of lasting crossover success as she seems to be.
jaki graham – round and around (1985)
jaki was perhaps best known for several duets with david grant. the former ub40 backing vocalist had a long run of solo hits between 1985 and 1988, of which this was the first. i can remember making myself sick trying to recreate the dizzying spinning dance she does in the video.

errol brown – your personal touch (1987)
he is of course, known primarily as the lead singer of 70s soul band hot chocolate, and this track was released from errol‘s first solo albun in 1987. after being somewhat ubiquitous around london in the 90s, charming his way around the club and bar scene, he’s now living a more settled life with long-suffering wife ginette in the bahamas.
cool notes – in your car (1985)
this south london group started life as a lovers’ rock act in the late 70s, morphing via disco to true eighties jheri soul artistes. their biggest hits were this track and ‘spend the night’ in 1985, from their much sought-after album ‘have a good forever’. band couple steve and lorraine mcintosh are the parents of bradley from s club 7. tsk, it’s always a shame when the parents are so much cooler than the kids…
pasadenas – enchanted lady (1988)
the pasadenas were a band that paid homage to 60s/70s soul greats – hence ‘tribute’ in 1988. despite a lot of covers and straight jacking the o’jays, they were decent songwriters, as evidenced by this 1988 track. ok, one of the reasons i like it is also because it featured in the episode of only fools and horses when rodney and cassandra get it together, in the nightclub under the watchful eye of mickey pearce and jevon.
sade – the sweetest taboo (1985)
sade, whilst a respected and successful artists amongst the soul fraternity, was also a favourite of estate agents and dinner party hosts. especially her first album in 1984 ‘diamond life’. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – she carried this theme through her next five albums. she also invented (or reinvented) the ‘croydon’ facelift’ ponytail . except she looked good in it. she found her work extensively remixed, covered and sampled in the 90s.

billy ocean – caribbean queen (1984)
lazy 80s music journalists labelled billy ocean the uk’s answer to michael jackson. i don’t remember this ludicrous comparison but i did always dance to ‘caribbean queen’ in a line with my friends at school discos after one too many cherryades. hilariously, in current chris rock sitcom, ‘everybody hates chris’, his younger sister tonya is a huge billy ocean fan, and claims that he invented the moonwalk not wacko, who stole it. it would have been great if that were true.