dirty martini

old music for new people

2008: the comebacks January 3, 2009

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despite declining sales, labels continued to throw money and effort into album promotion instead of finding new and creative ways to make money from music. which is now basically free, let’s face it.

i enjoyed these the most of all the comebacks last year.

download the comebacks of 2008

anthony hamilton – the day we met

consistent and underrated, anthony hamilton’s new album ‘the point of it all’ is a little more punchy, i think, than his previous efforts. it’s worth seeking out his mostly unknown 1996 debut if you like this side of him.

ashanti – you’re gonna miss

ashanti is that girl who has more male friends than female. she gets a lot of hate, but, she delivers some good music. ‘the declaration’ was a solid effort that would have achieved more had it not been for her audience connection issue mentioned previously, and the state of the music industry.

beyonce – single ladies

well, if you thought ‘bday’ was a disappointment…i’m hoping some of the other tunes on ‘i am…sasha fierce’ will grow on me. there’s nothing groundbreaking there though. i did love the fact that she appeared on x factor to sing with alexandra though. who, by the way, i think outsings her on ‘listen’ when she sings solo.

common – sex 4 sugar

common is taking a more commercial route this time round with ‘universal mind control’. that’s ok, it works.

erykah badu – honey

..speaking of which, his formerly crazy former missus has also lightened up a bit. see, it didn’t hurt that much did it? but for a time there it looked as if she had a touch of the lauryn hills.

john legend – can’t be my lover

i tried but failed to get into ‘once again’ but i’m loving the return to form on ‘evolver’. the reggae tracks are totally his comfort zone and the euro-electro tinged tracks even work, much as i am hating this current trend, which should in my opinion have started and ended with britney’s ‘gimme more’.

keyshia cole – where this love could end up

keyshia was hailed as the new mary. to my mind, she has not evolved or developed even slightly past her 2004 debut. this is not to say that ‘just like you’ and ‘a different me’ are bad – they’re as good as ‘the way it is’. if prince were to unleash another few albums that took up where ‘1999’, ‘purple rain’ or ‘sign of the times’ left off then this would be eaten up. but keyshia’s not prince.

mariah carey – i’ll be loving you long time

‘e=mc2’ is nowhere near as good as ‘mimi’ let’s get that out of the way. and ‘touch my body’ is shit. but as r&b albums go it’s head and shoulders above most of the crap we get launched at us these days and everyone is so relieved to see her settled and wearing some clothes for once that this is good enough.

raheem devaughn  – woman

a consistent neo-soul artist who returned in 2008, like clockwork, with ‘love behind the melody’. despite the rubbish neo-soul genre tag, surely grown up soul is where the money’s at these days?

raphael saadiq – sure hope you mean it

like several others, mostly brit, artists, he went the retro route. to great effect and in a far more authentic and endearing way than gimmicky amy winehouse and duffy. raphael has, of course, been doing this since his tony toni tone days. i could have picked almost any of the tracks from ‘way i see it’ as my favourite.

snoop dogg – cool

not much promotion behind ‘ego trippin’ as it goes, which is a shame cos i heart the retro flow of this prince-inspired track and ‘sensual seduction’.

usher – before i met you

i wonder if poor old usher realised just how critical the salivating teen girls and his momager were to his success? not at all, apparently, until ‘here i stand’ bombed and he bricked it. marrying a ropey looking older woman when you have the pick of a population? bratz generation say what?

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neo soul pioneers October 25, 2007

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 it would be easy to assume that neo-soul artists started to emerge in retaliation to the commercial and ostentatious r&b scene we’ve had since the late 90s.

 in fact, neo soul’s inception was much earlier, sometime in the early 90s. suddenly there were artists who weren’t new jack swing, they weren’t 8os, and they didn’t really complement the g funk scene. their closest contemporaries were the jazzhiphop and daisy age movement, but this sound was based on a classic soul sound updated for the new decade.

polished, note perfect vocals and overproduced instrumentals were replaced with more organic sounds and melancholy vocals. one of the things i really love about neo-soul is that whilst the lyrics are generally more intelligent and so better crafted than most r&b, there is an honesty and accessibility that speaks directly to you.

download here

d’angelo – brown sugar

one of the few comnmercially successful neo-soul artists. the naked image on his second album didn’t hurt.

des’ree – feel so high

default brit nominee des’ree started her career with this track in 1992, and has bubbled under ever since. last year she took on beyonce after she rerecorded ‘kissing you’ without permission. can’t wait to see how that one turns out…

jazzyfatnastees – unconventional ways

girl duo formed in 1992, originally with four member but now going strong as a duo supporting the likes of jill scott and alicia keys.

jhelisa – friendly pressure

didn’t receive that much attention on release but was revived a few laters with popular uk garage mixes by sunship.

lauryn hill – ex-factor

who knew the girl hailed as the saviour of soul would end up looking and acting like a circus freak? she had everything going for her, maybe the pressure to deliver another ‘miseducation’ was just too great?

lynden david hall – the jimmy lee story

sadly departed, and i’m glad he had that cameo in love actually or he might have been forgotten in a decade’s time. criminally underrated.

me’shell ndegeocello – if that’s your boyfriend

as difficult to categorise as pronounce, i heard of me’shell years ago but never quite got round to hearing her music until recently.

oleta adams – rhythm of life

best known for ‘get here’ but this was actually her first single in 1990.

omar – something real

a later track from omar lye-fook, who all but invented neo-soul with ‘there’s nothing like this’.

rahsaan patterson – crush on you

later reworked by lil kim and biggie. rahsaan has been a consistent figure since the early 90s.

seal – future love paradise

i never did get why seal rereleased ‘killer’ a year after adamski’s original version with him on vocals. i still think of ‘killer’ as an adamski track and cetainly this track and ‘crazy’ were a millions miles from the rave scene.

shara nelson – one goodbye in ten

not sure what happened to shara. after rising to fame with massive attack, she had commercial success with her first album in 1993, then promptly disappeared.

 

let battle commence September 16, 2007

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wow, looking at this autumn’s release schedule you’d think people still bought cds. i’m joking…

 anyway, here are some of the more anticipated albums due over the next few months.

download here 

leona lewis – bleeding love

album due november

well, this isn’t going to halt those mariah comparisons, and it’s a canny move much like mariah’s debut ‘vision of love’. midtempo, not too r&b, not too MOR, not too pop. i think she’s done the right thing, and watching the new series of the x factor, and hearing them say they’re looking for someone even better than leona this year could prove tricky.

mya -walka not a talka

album due…who cares?

apparently some people still care about mya’s album getting pushed back for the hundredth time. why? she’s crap. she can’t sing and even lumidee has had better songs than this. she’s a hook singer, at best, or perhaps a victoria beckham. as in, the one who doesn’t get to sing much in a group with at least four others.

teedra moses – take my love away

album due…once you’ve forgotten her real age

i really like teedra moses but i just checked her wiki and it says she was born in 1980. um, i remember reading that she was born in 1973 like her ex-husband, and then elsewhere that her management try to cover up her age, hence the delay in this album. must be annoying when they are people like me with an eye for detail.

keyshia cole – shoulda let you go

album due…late september

i like keyshia. i don’t think she’s the greatest singer but i do get the mary comparisons. the only criticism i would put forward is that so far her material doesn’t appear to have moved on that much. not necessarily a bad thing.

craig david – 6 of 1 thing

album due november

at one point it looked like bo selecta had killed his career but craig is back looking better than ever. the collaboration with kano won’t hurt. he appears to have stopped referring to himself in the third person as well. which is why avid merrion picked on him in the first place no doubt. i did laugh a lot at that ”wack’ is american for ‘shit” line…

alicia keys – no one

album due november

well, ‘no one’ is both vintage alicia and also a slight departure in terms of vocals, so its the best of both worlds so far. she’s going to sell whatever as she’s tapped into most markets, and inhabits that rare space of cool and commercial.

ashanti – you can’t deny it

album due december

irv gotti’s recent revelations and the resulting fallout may push this back further. clearly she’s keeping schtum so the inc don’t let her flop. i don’t understand the hatred some feel towards ashanti, she’s just kind of there. been in the right places at the right time i suppose.

chilli – gliding

album due january

why someone like chilli would need akon to steer her career is beyond me. in a sea of faceless, talentless r&b girls, I’m sure someone with a tlc pedigree and a usher-related story to tell could find a better deal. luckily it turns out none of it was true. she is getting on a bit now though.

d’angelo – really love

album due ?????

anything from d’angelo is welcome. the downside of the digital age is that so many quality artists struggle and have to wait so long for some backing. by the way, maxwell’s record label, i’m walking to you too.

jennifer hudson – special

album due early 2008

well ok this one has been pushed back too but she has been slightly busy. can’t wait for the satc movie. time will tell whether her big personality draws her into more and more film roles and away from the recording studio. and as she blew away beyonce in dreamgirls, i wouldn’t fancy the chances of anyone releasing at the same time.

jill scott – hate on me

album due late september

i like the bigger sound she’s going for here. the laidback neo soul is nice but this sounds fresher. i wonder what made jill more successful than angie stone in the end? both are on a level talentwise but jill seems to have come out on top.

lauryn hill – lose myself

album due…about 8 years ago

ok so she didn’t want to do another ‘miseducation’ and that’s her choice. creative and personal freedom is all very well and good but she doesn’t exactly look happy as the freakshow she’s turned into. don’t hold your breath, judging by this track it might not be worth it anymore.

mariah carey – love

album due november

well, how to follow the career saving ‘mimi’? hooking back up with longtime collaborators bone thugs’n’harmony is a start. i don’t doubt the album will be quality, i just hope she continue to keep the ballads to a minimum. and starts to acknowledge the fact that she’s pushing 40 and puts on some clothes and stops singing about ‘boys’.

teairra mari – missing you

album due…when she gets a deal?

better than rihanna in most respects, she fell down on likeability. jay-z totally misread the market on this one – disliked by parents as a bad influence, feared by her peer group as more experienced and annoyed the fuck out of those older and wiser by acting like she knew it all. she can sing though and with the right image and material should make a comeback.

trey songz – wonder woman

album due october

trey occupies an interesting space as a bad boy with eloquence. hopefully this contradiction in marketing terms can be overcome as his debut was solid but flopped badly.

 

90s girl groups – one hit wonders August 29, 2007

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if celebrity can be measured by the likelihood of someone turning up on a reality tv show, let’s be clear. these girls aren’t making it onto any islands, into any houses and won’t be choking down koala poo in any jungles.

image was a problem for many of the groups. in the early 90s, grunge influenced fashion even through to the polarised r&b scene. girl band members found themselves in lumberjack shirts, heavy denim and doc martens, in order to be taken serioously in the male dominated urban scene. topped off with heavy matt makeup and elaborate hairstyles that thankfully didn’t seem to move too much whilst they were dancing.

note tlc became far more successful once they ditched the tumble tots wear and condom-based accessories. check out the a list and the b list too. and the even less successful than on this list, list

download here

7669 – 69 ways to love a black man

i remember seeing 7669 videos on the box and thinking they were a bit ghetto. like an entire group of adina howards.  but they had some good tunes on east from a bad block, their one and only 1993 album. no doubt they would seem tame now and at least they wore clothes.

asia blue – escaping

in 1992 this was on my local radio station playlist and I’m surprised it didn’t become a much bigger hit. dina carroll covered it several years later but the original is far better. less r&b and more contemporary soul, with obvious new age influences.

blackgirl – krazy

ok, not so much one-hit wonders but in the UK at least, ’90s girl’ was their only success. this, their first track, features smooth. they actually recorded two albums, the second of which remains unreleased.

divine – lately

this was their only hit, rerecorded for the european market by samantha mumba. band member kia auditioned for this year’s american idol but didn’t make it past hollywood. they must have been young, then, when they were together?

earth gyrlz – love of mine

who were these girls? google uncovers little about them other than this track. and, that band member tanesha now performs in musicals so at least we know one of them has a job!

ex-girlfriend – why can’t you come home

started out in 1985 as petite, and recorded a tribute to new edition called ‘he’s so fine’. later became ex-girlfriend and had success with this and an album. stacy left and they continued as three for life but both solo and band attempts failed.

infiniti – will you be my baby

london-based trio. well, i had the single, grand puba was on the remix and he mentioned lauryn hill in his spot as far as i remember. band member dionne is now recording again after working in a pharmacy since the band split. but she did meet her husband there, so…result.

sa-deuce – don’t waste my time

there’s no information about this duo online. its scary to think that something from only just over a decade ago is lost forever just because no one put it online. it makes it seem really ancient.

s.h.e. – in the middle

another trio that failed to live up to their potential. the album ‘3’s a charm’ was nice but a little too commercial in parts. they remind me a bit of brownstone.

tcf crew – i ain’t the one

scant info on this group but they did record an answer track to color me badd’s ‘i wanna sex you up’ called ‘if you wanna sex me up’. would so love to find that. 

trellini – i wanna be yours

ok, as it turns out, not a group. i used to mix her up with tenderoni as they both had videos on the box around the same time, and i was looking for this track for years thinking it was one of theirs…

y?n-vee – chocolate

def jam group who are most memorable for their totally ghetto name.

 

everybody loves the old skool August 16, 2007

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this whole nostalgia thing is taking over. reminiscing used to be the preserve of old people, and at school, our biggest exposure to anything outside the early 90s was when we used to have to visit old people’s homes on what was known as ‘biddy patrol’.

in these, cough, fragrant environments, we just sat and listened to endless tales of ‘it was better in my day’ – a sentiment i’m starting to empathise with. we would smirk when they asked us if we were ‘courting anyone’ as we walked them round the garden. they then proceeded to tell us about the kind of music they listened to during the war, which most of us had never heard of. because it was fifty years ago.

a lot of people are scathing about the whole retro thing, especially the ‘i love…’ series. for most people, retro is several generations ago, not the 90s, a decade many people are still dressing in. i remember at the time of this series’ first run in 2001, the face magazine ran a pisstake article called ‘i love last week’. despite the fact that i loved the series, i found this right on the money. at the time i was 25 – should i be pining for my childhood already and oohing and aahing over such er, long lost groups such as take that and nkotb? nkotb haven’t even reunited yet, six years on! (although i am so anticipating that one).

we have long been encouraged to look backwards, its not an entirely new phenomenon. before the 00s, where the new, old and just-happened appear to share an equal platform in the nation’s consciousness, the first song i can remember that celebrated the old school was kylie’s ‘step back in time’ an ode to the disco era. there seems a unspoken agreement that old equals better – i think its just personal taste. i won’t listen to queen because they’re retro, anymore than i would listen to coldplay now.

my teenage cousins are more likely to listen to music made around the time they were born than i was at their age. this give us some common ground, but i do think its a shame if they can’t find anything new to relate to. we recently had a 15 year old work experience girl who listened exclusively to jungle, which was only really produced between 1993 and 1995. she was born in 1991. there is absolutely no chance that she could experience the culture behind the music. when i was 15 it was all about the new for me.

twelve artists who dig the cratesdownload here

aaliyah – old school

nostalgia’s an odd sentiment for a 15 year old but still, this is a nice mid 90s midtempo swing track from aaliyah’s first, r.kelly produced album.

amerie – reminisce witcha

from amerie’s new album ‘because i love it’ this track sees amerie nostalgic for a past relationship. there’s something very likeable about amerie and her voice sounds unique against the current crop of babyvoiced divas.

chante moore – old school lovin’

chante moore was a model-turned-singer and this is from her 1992 album ‘let’s stay together’. she had an early 90s supermodel look about her – lots of lipliner, pencil thin eyebrows and shiny, rollered hair.

estelle – 1980

this is an enjoyable romp through uk rapper estelle’s childhood, citing fresh prince, connect 4 and jheri curls as influences.

jill scott – family reunion

hazy happy barbecue days with the family. in a land where summer lasts longer than four days…

lauryn hill – every ghetto, every city

with more than a dash of inspiration from sir stevie, lauryn reminisces on an 80s childhood. its such a shame she couldn’t get it together to follow up ‘miseducation’. 

missy elliott and jay-z – back in the day

a look back to the 80s hiphop era – who knew british knights trainers actually orginated in the us? of course, missy was a huge five star fan, as well. hands up who wore their trainers with the tongues pushed up.

o’jays – family reunion

classic soul from one of the greatest groups of the 70s. used in the film ‘poetic justice’ for a barbecue scene, perhaps inspiring jill scott’s version.

shola ama – granny’s yard

cool. a very british excursion into shola’s 80s/90s upbringing. any song that namechecks soda stream, charlie brown and choice fm is ok with me.

stevie wonder – i wish

i watched a documentary about stevie wonder’s childhood and loved the fact that he didn’t his blindness affect his little boy instinct to leap off walls and sheds. ouch.

uness – old skool joint

newcomer uness pays homage to his girl and the old skool in one easy step. i’m loving uness.

will wheaton – old school soul

appreciation for the old school in the old school style. no its not that will wheaton…: )

 

the queen of hip hop soul? May 23, 2007

how have i got this far without doing a post on mary?

mary j.blige isn’t labelled the queen of hiphop soul lightly. when she arrived in 1992, the only artist that had even come close to what she did when she debuted were en vogue. they too mixed hiphop beats and soul vocals, but they did so without being street. en vogue merely used the beats – mary was the beats. she was hiphop, she just didn’t choose to rap.
growing up in yonkers, she was surrounded by pioneering hiphop such as run dmc and grandmaster flash. but the sentiments of these artists didn’t match the experiences of a teenage girl. mary sought solace in soul artists like anita baker who sang about realtionships and wanting someone you can’t have. it was the synergy of these two cultures that would later give mary her edge.
when i first saw ‘real love’ on mtv in 1992, everything made sense. i liked hiphop and i liked soul but they didn’t individually feel that relevant to me. i was too young to fully appreciate smooth soul productions and too far removed from the realities of hiphop lyrics. mary sang about things i could relate to as a 16 year old and added a touch of danger. it was a genre of music i had been waiting for, only i didn’t know it.
many fans have stated that mary produces her best work only when she’s suffering. true, her first two albums are my favourite but at the time i knew nothing about her personal demons. in fact her last studio album, ‘the breakthrough’ echoed those days, but she is now blissfully happy with producer kendu. i’m sure no one would really wish trainwreck kci hailey on her again…
ten lesser known mary tracksdownload here
you remind me
even though this was her first single, fans who joined the mary train later in the 90s won’t be so familiar. this remix captures the essence of 1992 and a summer day like nothing else.
reminisce
another hit from ‘what’s the 411’, remixed to feature pete rock and cl smooth and grab portions of ‘they reminisce over you’. see what they did there?
changes i’ve been going through
‘what’s the 411’ album track that really drilled the message home – this was not soul music in the traditional sense.
you don’t have to worry
411-era track from the ‘who’s the man?’ soundtrack. this is the soundtrack version, not the remix version that was more widely available.
love no limit
so ubiquitous you would have thought it was a single. bad boy remix that still gets played out today.
be with you
duet with lauryn hill originally intended for the ‘my life’ album. lauryn sounds young. at the time she had just released her first fugees album with pras and wyclef.
if i don’t love you this way
cover of jackson five classic from the ‘my life’ era. included on some international releases.
everyday it rains
from the 1995 ‘the show’ soundtrack. sounds like it could have been from either of the the sessions for the first two albums.
get to know you better
‘share my world’ album track. should have been released.one of my favourites.
he think i don’t know
from the ‘no more drama’ repackage.