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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i’m crazy for you, mr dj January 19, 2008

cheesydj1.jpg

the dj has enjoyed a good run of adoration that shows no sign of slowing down. and that is one serious jacket.

clearly, these artists didn’t frequent townie clubs where fat fortysomething djs led the crowd in chants of ‘who ate all the pies?’

see comedy dj ray von from phoenix nights for an example of the wedding reception dj those of us who grew up in the 80s had to contend with. though slowly becoming extinct they can still be found in their natural habitat – a chicago rock cafe.

shit…what is going to happen to pete tong and brandon block in the ‘010s?

download here

artful dodger – rewind

black magic – freedom

cassie – in love with the dj

che’nelle – i fell in love with the dj

destiny’s child – my song

indeep – last night a dj saved my life

jennifer lopez – play

lighter shade of brown – hey dj

rihanna – pon de replay

warren g – this dj

yvette michele – everyday and everynight

zhane – hey mr dj

 

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

breaking-glass.jpg 

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.

 

90s girl bands – premier league May 12, 2007

though the pop decade would be dominated by boy bands such as nkotb, take that and the backstreet boys until girl power hit, on the r&b scene, girl bands were always big business in the 90s.

after the spice girls, many tried to emulate their cartoony characteristics to achieve crossover success, but the truly talented chose credibility over advertising deals.

the integration of hip hop beats into r&b tracks was first heard on en vogue’s hold on in 1990 and the influence of the grittier hip hop scene saw some bands adopt a more casual or comedy image, notably tlc and jade, mostly via their clothing, to identify themselves with the more credible hip hop scene.

by 1995, it became more acceptable for girls to be girls and a more glamorous side emerged, eventually becoming the perfect complement to bad boy’s patented late 90s bling scene. despite this, many of the girls were tied to bad record deals and failed to recoup much of the reward for their success.

but this is the a list. you can check out the b list and the one-hit wonders too. imagine how much cash these girls didn’t make. and how much fame these z listers didn’t get.


these girls were on top of their game in the 90sdownload here
en vogue – lies
in 1990, en vogue sounded like nothing else. slickly manufactured 80s soul had given way to new jack swing but some were finding the music over-produced. enter four girls, looking like the supremes, but singing over the kind of beats associated with bands like nwa and public enemy. in a rare faux pas, smash hits labelled en vogue one hit wonders in their round up 1990 – quote “…their second single currently ‘lies’ (arf) in the discount bin at woolies…” I think the only reason I remember this is that it was actually quite funny. but wrong.


tlc – ain’t too proud to beg
colourful, cute and individual, tlc burst onto the scene in 1992. condoms flying. their first album ‘oooh on the tlc tip’ was slightly overshadowed by their loud image, but by the time ‘crazysexycool‘ was released in late 1994, the girls were all grown up. if it were possible to wear out a cd i would now be on my 25th copy. though chilli and t-boz tried to carry on without left eye, it was visibly painful and they’re now working on solo projects.

destiny’s child – show me the way
hands up who preferred destiny’s child back in the day? beyonce‘s voice is natural and the four girls harmonise perfectly. this track is from their debut, at age 15, and letoya is rumoured to be singing on the first verse. it does sound like her. maybe one day all six members will reunite, dreamgirls style….or not.


swvi’m so into you
inspiration of many of today’s current female r&b singers and the crown queens of new jill swing. swv were young, but looked older due to some hard times growing up. famously sampled wacko on ‘right here’ and went on to release five singles from their successful first album. band member lelee has recently alleged that they left their contract penniless in 1998, mirroring tlc‘s experience with laface.


jade – i want cha baby
game attempts to look sexy in lumberjack shirts five sizes too big paid off for jade, whose worldwide hit ‘don’t walk away’ put them up there with swv for a time. for years, the intro to that song featured on many an answerphone. after a second successful album, like swv and tlc, jade suffered from mismanagement and split in 1994 with little financial return.


702 – steelo
in the mid 90s, 702 tried to fill the gap left by financially ruined girl groups before them. against the odds, and with scant vocal ability, they have survived well into the 00s, partly due to the clout of longtime compadre missy elliott. still, they are responsible for some nice tracks.




eternal – stay
when they arrived, eternal were revered in the uk as a band the american record buying public would lap up. their success, whilst sizable, remained slightly more local so it was rumoured that single white member louise was offloaded to improve their chances in the us r&b market. unlikely, but in any case it turned out in her favour and she’s the only member still getting work. unless you count kelle bryan’s appearance on celebrity love island. which is precisely the opposite of being in demand.


xscape – understanding
underrated girl group who favoured mid and slow tempo jams that allowed their vocals to shine. another young group, the then mid-teens sang at jermaine dupri’s birthday party in 1991 and got a contract for their efforts. split in 1998 but now regrouped.


total – no one else
total were a bad boy project, originally singing choruses on hip hop joints for artists such as biggie smalls and ll cool j. had they stuck with this strategy, they could have disguised the fact that neither kima keisha or pam can actually sing. their debut album was painful listening and i dread to think what the untouched demo sounded like. the beats of course, were bad boy’s, and wasted on them.

brownstone – if you love me
this group managed to negotiate the obvious pitfalls of being signed to wacko‘s label and became reasonably successful with this track in 1995. after replacing a member who left due to bronchitis (read: girlfght) they failed to recover.

 

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
tevin
‘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…

 

hiphop love songs April 26, 2007

…collective sigh of relief, one blogger isn’t getting into the whole don imus thing. quite frankly, I don’t know enough about it. more interestingly what it does seem to have triggered is renewed interest in the crusade against misogynistic and violent hiphop lyrics, a cause currently championed by russell simmons.i’m not going to delve for examples of russell‘s back catalogue that contradict this stance. it’s not big and it’s not clever – people are perfectly entitled to change their opinions.

what i’m not clear on though, is why they think the campaign will work this time round. the number of hiphop devotees has multiplied more than every other genre since the mass media last rallied in the early 90s. then, they targeted just a handful of rappers, including too short, tupac and snoop. because that was more or less the scale of the ‘problem’, a couple of record labels, a lot of overblown egos and scores to settle.

in 2007 its a whole different ballgame – they’re not attacking a subsection of underground culture, hiphop is now popular culture. no doubt, the campaign will hold up tupac and biggie‘s deaths, which now happened more than a decade ago, as proof of hiphop beef taken too far. and they were far from an everyday occurrence, the isolation of the incidents involving these tragic figures is exactly what has created their legend. far more people die on the streets every day than have hiphop icons over the last 20 years. and i’m pretty sure most of the street incidents happened to the kind of person who was going to get caught up in that world anyway. listening to eminem in your bedroom does not magically transport you out of the suburbs to the kinds of places where you might face those kind of kill-or-be-killed decisions.

perhaps the real shock factor in these deaths was borne out of a naïve assumption that a celebrity can more effectively shield themselves from someone who wants to kill them than the average member of the same community. that they were granted some kind of immunity and had transcended their circumstances through fame, rather than in fact becoming more vulnerable and a greater scalp.

what we should remember is that genuine hiphop tries to reflect real life. nwa didn’t just rap about compton to entertain you, that’s where they’re from and who they are. they were trying to give their community a voice, not suggest that their reality is anything like yours and that their actions and reactions would be acceptable within other contexts.

in the worst neighbourhoods, shot or be shot is an almost daily dilemma. tupac and biggie‘s deaths weren’t the shocking result of fiction overstepping the boundaries of storytelling, rather a sad indictment of a lifestyle they glorified for cash rather than broke out of. there wasn’t any fiction involved and their late material implied an acceptance of their fate.

so, those that should know better are regrouping to decide how to remove offensive content from hiphop. instead of convening to tackle the real life incidents that inspire it. then the rest of us can pretend its not happening anymore. great, well done.

ten non-offensive hiphop classicsdownload here common and mary j blige – come close
2004 cut from ‘electric circus’. common recognises that relationships can be hard and require sacrifice, but worth saving…

guru – when you’re near
king of non-offensive hiphop, guru and then-acid jazz ingenue n’dea davenport from the brand new heavies flirt back and forth in 1993.

guerrilla black – you’re the one
even g’s get it bad sometimes.

common and jill scott – 8 minutes to sunrise
now this one could really be messy – common has woken up next to his best friend’s girl.

foreign exchange – all that you are

how many men actively try to treat their women right?

ll cool j and boyz ii men – hey lover
ll
pioneered the hiphop ballad with ‘i need love’, then in 1995 he went one better and recruited r&b crooner boyz ii men to assist this tale of an unobtainable crush.

roots and erykah badu – you got me
new relationships are hard…especially when you meet in paris and are worried the spark will fade once you get home.

pm dawn – set adrift on memory bliss

best use of a sample ever. end of.

ali and gipp featuring letoya – almost made you

these relative newcomers are doing their thing, with ex-dc starlet letoya on board.

ll cool j – around the way girl

how come someone as fine as ll never gets his dream girl?

 

boys don’t cry – new edition go solo April 25, 2007

if there was ever a gender stereotype that was true, its that girls can’t get along. so when female band mates part ways, the media holds their breath for the name calling, backbiting and never has to wait for too long. a lot of women would rather eat nothing but salad for the rest of their lives than see a former female friend do their thing.witness beyonce and kelly‘s unceremonious dumping of destiny’s child cohorts letoya, latavia and farrah at the first sign they wouldn’t toe the line. and now, not content with daddy hampering kelly and michelle‘s solo ambitions since the dc3 finale, beyonce is now rumoured to be sabotaging newly famous solo star letoya‘s efforts. recently she allegedly demanded letoya be removed from a soundtrack project before she would participate and made herself look like a petulant child when she flew into london for last year’s mobo awards only to boycott it when the organisers refused to strike letoya from the lineup.

boy bands just never seem to have all these problems. seemingly, they’re happy just to be there having a laugh with their friends. and if one leaves, they wish them well and even make guest appearances on their new solo material. which may well be the clue to why every member of new edition found solo fame – karma.

ten reasons i can’t decide if i prefer new edition together, or apartdownload herebobby brownevery little step, don’t be cruel, roni, rock witcha
bobby wasn’t always the village idiot. before reality tv uncovered the madness that led him to yell at plastic fruit, bobby was the most successful of all the former new edition boys. although the erratic behaviour that led to his eviction from the group would resurface in later years, he pretty much held it together from 1988 to 1994. in 1988, at the age of 19 he hit pay dirt with ‘my perogative‘ and never looked back.

bell biv devoe – poison, do me, in the crib
hot on the heels of new edition’s ‘heart break’ tour, ronnie devoe, michael bivins and ricky bell formed bell biv devoe and has instant success with new jack swing classics ‘poison’ and ‘do me’. in 2002 they returned with a new album, and ‘in my crib’. all are still active as part of new edition and ronnie devoe is married to shamari fears of blaque, who is probably not old enough to remember the boys in their early days…

johnny gill – rub you the right way, there you go
unlike the others, johnny had been successful prior to joining the group, with three albums already under his belt. after, he had one of the biggest hits of the new jack era, ‘rub you the right way’ and went on to record five more albums and joined forces with gerald levert and keith sweat to form lsg in the late 90s. ‘there you go’ was one of the highlights of the popular 1992 soundtrack to the eddie murphy film ‘boomerang’.

ralph tresvant – sensitivity
wacko soundalike ralph was slightly more cautious about striking out on his own. ‘sensitivity’ is his biggest hit although his collab with bobby brown on ‘stone cold gentleman’ comes close. like johnny, he is still part of new edition but has had consistent solo success and is still recording today.