dirty martini

old music for new people

less is more: real divas don’t oversing October 15, 2007

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the principal objection to r&b, from those who remain unenamoured, is usually the tendency for certain singers to attempt to fit ten notes into a space where one will suffice.

its often viewed as showing off and the results are often hysterical, and i don’t mean funny. whilst a good range and the ability to scale is impressive, it can detract from the meaning of the lyrics. how many times have you sat there and cringed whilst a singer trills their way through an entire album?

vocal gymnastics aren’t big and they’re not clever.  plus – they’re just so 90s,

top 10 offenders/songs

1. christina aguilera – singing anything. i hate her voice. oh look its a little girl with a big voice. lets see what she can make it do…

2. mariah carey – singing ballads. i actually think the whitney criticisms are off – she controls her voice too well to make this list. on occasion, mariah’s lunacy shines through her vocals. bless her.

3. kelly price – on ‘friend of mine’, she actually sounded the death knell for the melisma that had built into a crescendo up until that point in the 90s. too much.

4. beyonce – especially the dangerously in love ballads and most of destiny fulfilled. she was constantly trying to outsing kelly and michelle. and seems to have gone nuts since letoya crashed onto the scene and jennifer stole her thunder.

5. mary j.blige – now i love mary, and god knows if anyone should be histrionic, she’s had a hard time of it. but i like her better when she reins it in.

download here

aaliyah – the thing i like

too cool to coo. i heard that aaliyah’s laidback style was due to her undivalike tendency to allow the backing track to play centre stage and let her vocals wash over them. so effective.

alicia keys – a woman’s worth

content with showing her all round musical ability with her vocals only one of the instruments at her disposal. which is the mark of a real musician. she remains classier than her contemporaries and will far outlast them.

amerie – crush

maybe the reason amerie isn’t as successful in the US is her apparent refusal to screech and holler. i think she has a nice tone to her voice and knows she doesn’t need to dress it up that much.

angie stone – wish i didn’t miss you

it would be easy for a curvy lady like angie to overcompensate with her impressive range. oh and this is one of the best uses of a classic sample, ever.

beverley knight – queen of starting over

sounding more like aretha as time passes, and one of the only r&b singers who is actually good enough to oversing if the mood requires. i just wish she didn’t feel the need to MOR all her work.

sarah anne webb (d’influence) – there can be

criminally overlooked singer sarah anne webb has since left the group to be replaced by a host of others. and it doesn’t sound like d’influence anymore.

deborah cox – sentimental

ok, now that she’s a gay icon, some of deborah’s vocals are sailing close to the edge. but when she arrived in 1995, she was the queen of understated cool with this 2 step classic.

leona lewis – what you do to me

leona could so easily have alienated last year’s x factor viewers by oversinging but she managed to rein in her musical upbringing and used her range appropriately, rather than unnecessarily.

n’dea davenport (brand new heavies) spend some time

acid jazz was never about excessive vocal gymnastics anyway, but n’dea is a prime example of a powerful voice not trying too hard.

sade – the sweetest taboo

sade just doesn’t look like someone about to holler and whoop. and i can’t think of a single occasion in her lengthy career when she would have needed to stoop to that level.

shola ama – you’re the one i love

honey voiced shola has always been the uk’s understated export and it may have cost her in some ways. which is a sad indictment of the industry.

teedra moses – be my girl

ok so, i have criticised the smokescreen surrounding teedra’s real age lately and been scolded. what i will say is that she’s grown enough to realise that runs are for kids.

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100% acid jazz July 14, 2007

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in contrast to the frenetic house, techno, new jack swing and jungle scenes of the early 90s, genres that mirrored these scenes but with a slowed down tempo started to arise. ambient and balearic became the comedown music of choice for tired clubbers, and jazz jungle emerged for those too knackered, or rhythmically challenged, for drum and bass.

acid jazz may have been a backlash against the studio produced sounds of the time, or just a natural regression back to a more organic era. i don’t think, for the first few years, i really thought about it that much or recognised acid jazz as any different. one of the first really big tracks, ‘always there’ by incognito, was remixed into a us garage anthem anyway, as were many brand new heavies tracks. acid jazz probably blended more effortlessly with the house and garage crowds than the more obvious affiliate of new jack swing.

acid jazz, thanks to its socially conscious and intelligent lyrical content, was a saving grace for me at university when looked down upon by miserable indie kids and oh so alternative rockers alike. they felt able to decimate house and garage music for its lack of lyrical content, jungle for its london-centric, chavtastic appeal and well, they just dismissed r&b entirely. stating a preference for acid jazz usually left them speechless and for that i was grateful. i’ve never understood quite why fans of such insipid and regressive music feel they have superior taste but i never miss an opportunity to put them in their place.

it’s so true that you will never see your first year uni friends ever again. and that you really need music in common in order to suddenly become flatmates with a bunch of strangers. on my first night at university i sat in my room in the grubby halls of residence and wondered how on earth i was going to cope. to my left, a mature student was blaring out eric clapton, across the hall, elton john.  i wandered downstairs and found a group of greasy helmet heads swaying to suede. after an uncomfortable night in the local pub in which we discovered none of us had anything in common, we awoke the next day to the sound of a latecomer unpacking her belongings to the dulcet tones of michael bolton. she played him every sunday morning until someone broke into her room and stamped on the cassette.

once the caring sharing and huggy early nineties had given way to laddism and ibiza, acid jazz faded. soon it was viewed as too worthy and retro to compete with the futuristic beats and sculpted r&b unleashed by timbaland, the neptunes and roc-a-fella.

the live instrumentation in amerie and beyonce’s work are a nod to the principles of acid jazz and should we ever return to the crystal wearing, cleansing new age era then perhaps it will resurface. well, we’ve revived everything else. in fact the 90s revival is well overdue – i seem to remember spending my 21st birthday at an 80s night in 1997. 

90s jazz funk classics – download here

brand new heavies – close to you

carleen anderson – mama said

clusterfunk – do me right

corduroy – mini

d’influence – midnight

diana brown – masterplan

incognito – don’t you worry ’bout a thing

jamiroquai – blow my mind

leena conquest – boundaries

liquid soul – i want you to want me

repercussions – promise me nothing

young disciples – apparently nothing