dirty martini

old music for new people

r&b girl bands: voted off the island April 26, 2008

assuming they were famous enough to get on a reality show in the first place. the 00s have not really been a great time for girl bands. in the late 90s it was a crowded market, full of stage school wannabes thrown together with people they hate and a few genuine girl groups looking to capitalise on the spice trend.

who do we have now? sugababes? girls aloud? tch…

download here

3lw – feelin’ you

ok not exactly drifting towards obscurity but in music terms, it’s over. interestingly when they debuted in 2000 they were sounding too mature and now in their 20s, they’re disney. counter-intuitive.

411 – on my knees

brit girl band from a few years back. like danity kane but less porn channel and more smtv. fond of hiphop sampling to communicate street credentials.

aaries – strangers to lovers

have collaborated with sir musiq of soulchild and this alone should have raised more interest. add that to the fact that they’re a fairly talented bunch and make quality soul not ringtone r&b and it’s difficult to see where it went wrong.

anjel – not the way i pictured it

after being dumped by beyonce and kelly (ok, beyonce and mathew..), letoya and latavia hooked up with naty quinones and tiffany beaudoin to form short-lived anjel.

bella  – never be me

yet another ‘big on myspace’ act that didn’t translate. see also ‘jazzy’ and ‘unklejam’.

blaque – i’m good

had a not bad run thanks to their mentor, left eye. blaque actually started out ten years ago nowm as blaque ivory. this track is now a staple of show like ‘so you think you can dance’ and ‘bump’n grind’ on trouble.

gyrlfriend – sprung

produced by the underdogs, but it wasn’t enough. their names is so 90s, as well.

her sanity – xclusive

over-produced and silly name. like a budget version of allure.

isyss – not letting him go

including the sister of actress meagan good, this group were quite good and focused on uptempos, which is always a bonus.

js – someone

think changing faces, not updated a great deal, for the 00s. i might have missed something but i don’t recall the original group being so popular that we needed a sequel.

phajja – checkin’ for me

their two albums were actually ok. a bit like brownstone to me. but they nicked a classic album title, ‘meeting in the ladies room’ and this seemed to seal their fate.

tg4 – two minutes

not very tastefully sang about virginity with needa s…yes that old woman once known as smooth. eww. that family are sleaze. lying about their ages and allegedly corrupting kids.

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90s r&b soundtrack gems August 14, 2007

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 r&b soundtracks rarely carry the big hits of larger budget films – for a while now they’ve bought up extra material from established artists’ album sessions or provided a valuable way in for newcomers.

there seems to have been a shift in the way that soundtracks are purchased. back in the 70s and 80s we bought them after seeing a film to recapture the moment – grease and dirty dancing spring immediately to mind – but now we often buy them before or even with no intention of seeing the movie. i probably own at least five soundtracks to films i’ve never seen.

so here are some extras from 90s artists that all too often get lost.

90s soundtrack bonus cutsdownload here

sunset park – aaliyah – are you ready – 1996

despite being released the same year as her timbaland-produced groundbreaking sophomore album, this gently bumping effort was clearly an offcut form her earlier debut.

money talks – swv – tell me how you want it – 1997

swv were soundtrack veterans by this point, having already contributed similarly slinky slow jams to waiting to exhale (all night long) and hav plenty (where you are).

murder was the case – jodeci – come up to my room – 1995

i actually prefer jodeci’s mid-fast tempo tracks more than their sometimes overblown ballads, and wish they’d made more deeply sexy joints like this one…

dangerous minds – aaron hall – curiosity – 1995

being part of the same set as the huge ‘gangsta’s paradise’ was either a blessing (sales) or a curse (overshadowed).

soul food – tenderoni – baby i – 1997

one hit wonders tenderoni con ributed this much-loved track to one of the decade’s biggest soundtracks. should have been a launchpad to bigger and better things.

the best man – allure – when the shades go down – 1998

hard to believe this was an offcut from their debut as its probably stronger than 90% of the tracks on there…

high school high – faith evans – i just can’t – 1996

reminds me of the summer when r&b went global, and tupac was killed…

hav plenty – jon b and coko – keep it real – 1998

got a lot of airplay at the time, i loved this and splashed out £££ on the import.

the nutty professor – monica – ain’t nobody – 1996

one of monica’s better offerings after her strong debut, featuring treach of naughty by nature.

waiting to exhale – tlc – this is how it works – 1995

a new tlc track was a rarity and after crazysexycool, much in demand.

 

90s girl bands – all credit to the spice girls. no really… July 26, 2007

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 so, a while back i did a post on the premier r&b girl bands of the 90s, and this is the b list. the ones who now work in telesales, stay at home with their kids or ‘went back to college to study fashion’.

its funny that the spice girls are still credited with opening up the market for girl acts, in a decade widely remembered for the proliferation of drippy irish boy bands. in the same way that nkotb didn’t invent boy bands, the spice girls were far from an influence on ooh, about 50 or so r&b girl groups that came before them. i laughed when i read an early US review that claimed the spice girls sounded ‘a bit like tlc’. yeah and mya sounds a bit like aretha.

so, being the same age as baby spice i was far too old to get caught in the spice trap and managed to navigate the irritation of my then new boyfriend fancying geri halliwell. we’re still together, and he denies everything.

these groups didn’t go on to conquer the world (destiny’s child) and don’t enjoy regular royalty payments by being featured on countless classic r&b compilations (jade, swv). they probably only had one good album each, that wasn’t quite successful enough to guarantee a follow up.

such groups don’t really exist today as it’s not commercially viable to put any money into new acts that will have limited success. at least this lot managed to shift a few units, if not a platinum amount. so, if they think they’re skint now, they should thank their lucky stars they weren’t born ten years later…check out the 90s girl band premier league and the even more unfortunate one-hit wonders. and the no-hit wonders.

90s also-ran girl bands – download here

zhane – sending my love

zhane’s early work was club friendly but little substance…so they did a reverse nelly furtado and wrote some nice material for their second album. also check out ‘crush’.

assorted phlavors – make up your mind

this group, with their typical mid 90s sound, suffered somewhat from arriving on the cusp of timbaland and missy‘s late 90s r&b revolution. along with…

allure – head over heels

…mariah’s girl group, who are still together but have suffered from delays and non-starters with their second and third albums.

braxtons – slow flow

yes, as in, toni‘s sisters. the group thing didn’t last long but tamar has had minimal solo success. did a fairly pointless cover of diana ross’ ‘the boss’.

for real – like i do

identikit 90s r&b group with no distinguishing features. briefly attempted to differentiate themselves with the original version of this track and its accompanying motown-style video.

nuttin nyce – in my nature

nastier than jade and more vocally challenged than swv, their main competition at the time. most of their tunes now sound very dated.

kut klose – surrender

slinky slow jam specialists, in my opinion they did grind’n’b much better than the slightly desparate sounding changing faces.

mokenstef – he’s mine

popular track from another faceless r&b group that doubtless prompted a thousand catfights in the (then very few) r&b clubs across the country.

sista – i wanna be with you

sista‘s album was shelved but has since leaked, and you can hear proto-missy all over it.

good girls – just call me

perennial old skool half-hour favourite, in the hard to find remix version. despite this, the good girls found chart success elusive, perhaps due in part to their odd penchant for acid wash denim, which was seriously passe by 1992.

 

the true sound of miami May 21, 2007

what’s freestyle? even if you think you aren’t familiar, chances are that if you have more than a passing interest in hiphop r&b soul or even house and garage, then you will have heard several of its exponents.

originating from miami in the mid 80s, freestyle can best be described as a straight mashup of electro, hiphop, r&b, house…anything goes. hence the name. it became hiphop for girls. yes, female rappers such as roxanne (both of them) salt-n-pepa and jj fad were doing their thing, but this was much sweeter and more accessible.sometimes, it was so plaintive as to be almost offkey and out of tune but I think that adds to its charm, and is more honest than giving cassie, britney and mya recording contracts and manipulating their weedy warblings. freestyle sounded like it had been made on a casio keyboard, and it most probably had been. the studio version without the ‘wake me up before you go go’ demo button though. vocals that sounded like they had been recorded into a handheld tape deck gave the whole affair a more dangerous edge.

the look? quintessential late 80s styling with a latin edge. big backcombed curls, big earrings…and relaxed pastels for the heat. freestyle itself could perhaps be summarised with the above image – aspirational neon cocktail. totally 80s, totally miami.

when I visited florida a few years ago, I didn’t expect to hear any freestyle. i thought that one of the things that had made me want to visit miami for so long would be long gone, a distant memory of twenty and thirtysomethings now fully immersed in the house or r&b scenes. but it was everywhere!

 


crunk had just exploded but from the local radio stations, you’d never guess. we cruised happily up and down the a1a, and in and out of walgreens and taco bell, to the sounds of freestyle for two weeks. i highly recommend florida to anyone needing some sunny late 80s nostalgia…

ten sounds of party 93.1 south floridadownload here


lil suzy – take me
well, if i hadn’t known this track before i went to florida, i certainly did by the time i arrived home. played about four times a day and considering we didn’t spend that much time in the car listening to party 93.1, you can safely assume this was a dj favourite…

stevie b – spring love
uk peeps may only know stevie b for his dreary 1991 hit ‘because i love you’. it seems the only reason he got away with releasing that dirge was that he had already established some credibility on the freestyle circuit. and promptly flushed it down the toilet.

nice and wild – diamond girl
no pic exists for this group, who had several freestyle club hits – this is my favourite. perfect example of electro meets hiphop meets 80s jheri curl soul.

expose – let me be the one
i do remember expose being hyped as the next big thing in smash hits in the late 80s. well, they didn’t take off in the uk but appear to have done well natively and are fondly remembered. i think when en vogue arrived i was slightly confused then realised they were a completely different group.cover girls – show me
like expose, touted as the next big thing but the uk didn’t really get freestyle so they sank without trace until they shifted direction. i seem to remember they covered ‘wishing on a star’ so they must have had some success over here.

lisa lisa and cult jam – i wonder if i take you home
electro favourite that was hard to categorise at the time. lisa lisa and cult jam continued to have success, with ‘all cried out’ (later covered by allure and 112) and c&c music factory remixed ‘let the beat hit em’ (heard that on the radio last week – still sounds amazing). lisa went solo in 1994 with album ‘LL77’ to rapturous reviews but uh, it was all a bit alternative and grey for me…i much preferred the colourful nonsense of the 80s.

shannon – let the music play
perhaps the first freestyle hit, apart from freeez‘s ‘iou’, which i’m not sure counts as they were from london, not miami. plus, ‘iou’ was a wedding reception favourite even back in the day, which surely disqualifies them. anyway, this track along with madonna’s poppier ‘holiday, changed the face of dance music in 1984.

 

 

 

joyce sims – all and all
this song was doing nothing and going nowhere until kurtis mantronik picked it up and laid the vocals over his ‘bassline’ instrumental. suddenly it was everywhere and not everyone realises its a remix – a bootleg at that.

debbie deb – when i hear music
one of the biggest freestyle hits. i had to include a more recent photo of debbie as she looks awful in her 80s shots. circulation defying skintight bleached jeans, sausage in a condom style boob tube, blonde hairdo that looks like it would come off in one piece…ick…sometimes i’m glad i wasn’t really old enough to pick all of my own clothes in the 80s. 

 

seduction – two to make it right
much like expose and the cover girls, assembled to cash in on their success. probably wore the least clothes out of the three and had the least hits as well…