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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21 again? April 9, 2008

there is no news in the revelation that celebs lie about their age but it doesn’t get any less ridiculous.

they can get caught out by their voting records like ashton kutcher, resentful ex-classmates or their own desire to purge themselves and tell the truth, thus angering their publicist.

alicia keys

enemy of the stars, wendy williams, claims that rootsy alicia isn’t quite so authentic and is a few years older than she claims. her apparent maturity suggests that this could be true. she debuted in 1997 with ‘sexy thing’ on the men in black soundtrack.

amerie

her opening offer was 1982. no one bid. do i hear 1980? *crickets* ok, 1978? going once…

beyonce

who knows if that 1974 birth certificate is real? bee looked about 27 ten years ago and rumour has it this wouldn’t be the only secret she’s managed to keep. personally i think she may be telling the truth and just had a bad case of the catherine zeta joneses. just think how old she would look if she wasn’t spending an alleged 20k a month on her beauty regime.

jennifer lopez

achieved career nirvana and sang like a canary (once) when faced with police interrogation, and admitted to being born a year earlier than previously stated. hey, who else can we do this to?

kelis

shaved a year off her age in her early career until a la guardia classmate blew the whistle. others claim its more like five years. i just don’t see the point…she’s not that type of girl. i’m going to try and be tactful here….it just doesn’t make a difference, you know?

madonna

apparently her publicist made her lie about her age in the early days, but madonna herself revealed that she was two years older, having been born the same year as wacko. bet the leotard botherer wishes she had those two years back now that the big 5-0 is approaching.

michelle williams

made the mistake of standing in front of a banner reading ‘class of 1989’ for a yearbook photo. lol. even if that was just an old banner, everyone is too ready to believe she looks old enough to be 37, so it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.

smooth

without a shadow of a doubt the most barefaced liar on this list. check her 1990 videos on youtube when she was apparently 11. although nothing would surprise me in that family i think chris stokes has an older sister not a younger one. a source claims that she was actually 34 a few years back – you do the math.

snoop

wiki says he could be anything up to 41 years old by now. which makes sense seeing as how he’s been on the scene since i was at school…and i’m not going into how long ago that was right now…

teedra moses

i’ve mentioned her age on here before and been told off (well, as far as you can tell someone who isn’t bothered). the wiki changed pretty quickly from 82 to 76 and that’s only three years off the truth. progress.

 

eat me February 13, 2008

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food is love and love is food.

valentine’s day restaurant rant alert: why do you have to have a set menu? full of the blandest and cheapest crap on the menu? it’s valentine’s day and i want to choose!

download here

all saints – black coffee

very chilled coffee house track from the girls, which was an image departure after nic and nat’s early days of falling in and out of the met bar.

anthony hamilton – cornbread fish and collard greens

well anthony does like his women to eat.

d’angelo – devil’s pie

from ‘voodoo’ – yes the album with that cover.

hil st soul – bag of chips

can’t quite understand why this track wasn’t a bigger success.

labelle – lady marmalade

labelle actually weren’t the first group to record this enduringly popular song about hookers – it was a disco group called eleventh hour.

little milton – grits ain’t groceries

for years i thought grits were like big crisps cos thats what they sold at butlins when i was a kid…now i’ve been to momma cherri’s soul food cafe i understand it a bit better…

ll cool j and mary j blige – favourite flavour

when i first heard this i couldn’t believe how similar it sounded to their previous collaboration a decade earlier on the remix of ‘mary jane’.

loose ends – a little spice

i’ve said it before – loose ends are the truth.

michael cooper – dinner for two

i discovered michael late. it looks like his careers has spanned three decades so far.

prince – martika’s kitchen

i think i prefer this version. i love how prince records demos for the artists he produces for. i suppose a lot of artists do – but his are often better versions.

prince – cream

prince understands the erotic power of food – peach, raspberry beret, chocolate…

scotty and lorna bennett – breakfast in bed

i never got the breakfast in bed thing – until recently. i was in a hotel with a nice room, and i ordered three kinds of egg with toast and mushrooms, and orange, apple and grapefruit juices. it really sorted out my hangover…which was just as well as i was there to work!

sunshine anderson – lunch or dinner

food is a play safe setting for a first date. i suppose there’s less awkward silence if you can’t speak anyway cos your mouth is full.

 

‘…sounds a bit like prince…’ January 4, 2008

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 as a new artist, or even as an established artist, one of the greatest endorsements is to be labelled as sounding ‘a bit like prince’.

the saving grace of lazy journalists everwhere, these few words can rescue a flopping album, even if they are only bestowed upon one or two tracks. now that prince himself is more rock-fixated, the promise of just one or two scraps reminiscent of his 80s prime can be sufficient to spark interest amongst the musical cognoscenti.

to a lesser extent, this peculiar brand of retro copycat hype has previously been applied to artists lauded as the new ‘stevie wonder’ or ‘madonna’. there isn’t going to be a new prince, and it turned out out that those artists were similarly irreplaceable. the excitable, yet totally unreal, music journalism of the the late 90s has given way to a more considered approach.

we don’t need a new prince – clearly the man has produced gargantuan amounts of music and yet more could be unleashed at any point (please). the accessibility of retro music means that we don’t need rafts of exciting new artists – gone are the days when you had to pay a premium to get hold of music that was no longer in the charts.

we just need a few new songs every now and then. and they should sound as much like ‘when doves cry’ as possible.

download here

alicia keys – like you’ll never see me again

debuted with an album containing a prince cover – a b side no less, to show her fan credentials.  on this track, not only the production, but the vocal style and lyrics ooze purple. a lesser artist could be accused of bandwagon hopping but alicia has already proved herself.

chris brown – take you down

chris brown, however, has clearly been advised that the tumble tots r&b will only take him so far and is trialling a new, more adult musical direction – prince. job one should have been to work on that childish feature in his voice that makes him sound like he’s not old enough to form singular vowels – evidence: ‘you make me say yeeeeeoooooaaaaaawwwwww’. shit, my cat forms better vowels than that.

the dream – fast car

i like what i’ve heard from the dream so far, which isn’t a lot. but this and album track ‘nikki’ do reek of ‘obligatory prince-esque production’ to hook gullible and lazy journalists and perk up enthusiastic but clueless PR. basically this is ‘little red corvette’ not-so-updated for the 00s.

erykah badu – honey

an interesting detour for ms badu. i love her music but neo-soul artists can often fall into the dull and worthy trap, making their albums unlistenable by the time they get to their fourth outing.

justin timberlake and beyonce – until the end of time

the influence is slightly more subtle here, but those ‘when doves cry’ instruments are there, just slower, and the overall vibe is classic prince slow jam.

kevin michael – liquid lava love

like robin thicke with a curly afro and arguably more soul. expect big things from this one.

ne-yo – sex with my ex

ne-yo got a lot of stick for allegedly being gay. then when he fathered a child, he got a lot of stick for being ugly. now he’s getting a lot of stick for churning out a raft of soundalike tracks for the artsts he produces for. with all this abuse perhaps he’ll soon have more in common with craaaaaaig david.

p diddy and keyshia cole – last night

an absolute, straight in your face ‘erotic city’ ripoff so blatant that you can’t really argue. as ever, diddy’s montone adds little to the proceedings.

ryan leslie – i-r-i-n-a

ryan leslie’s productions have more than a whiff of purple about them but his own album was fairly narrative and self-celebratory which isn’t prince’s style. prince’s lyrics are cute and playful and focus on the subject rather than the protagonist and so i’m talking production similarities here – there’s no parallel in terms of subject matter, although this is the closet r-les gets to purple greatness.

snoop – sensual seduction

the video and lyrics are classic prince, but the production?  not like anything i’ve heard from prince, but perhaps i’m missing something. the synths are straight out of early 90s chillout, i’m pretty sure they’re too floaty and random for the machine funk of the 80s. nice combo though, me likey.

sterling simms – nasty girl

sterling jumps right back to late 70s prince while everyone else tries to recreate the 80s.

van hunt – hot stage lights

i only just listened to van hunt after hearing his name for years. and now i have a new musical crush. the only good thing about discovering artists late is that there is usually plenty of material to whet your appetite.

 

crazy is as crazy does December 23, 2007

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 artists like to sing about being crazy -and over the christmas period their claims to insanity may be more valid. families can send you nuts.

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chaka demus and pliers – love you like crazy

became a bit of a comedy reggae act in the 90s after a pointless cover of ‘twist and shout’.

corina – loving you like crazy

freestyle artist corina is still going strong – this track is from 1990.

dream – crazy

teenage girls do not make for a harmonious group – lineup changes led to their second album, ‘reality’, being shelved. a shame, as this, and some of the other tracks sounded a lot better than their debut.

five star – crazy

i loved this video, which followed the group as they rampaged through an empty fairground. very low budget ie classic 80s.

mark morrison – crazy

actually mark’s first single before ‘return of the mack’. is he in jail again? not heard from him for a while.

missy elliott and beyonce – crazy feelings

a restrained effort from beyonce here, thankfully. missy’s midtempo tracks are actually very good.

mj cole – crazy love

lushly produced uk garage, bound for the lounge rather than the club. vocals are by uk urban mainstay elisabeth troy.

musiq – halfcrazy

nice slow jam from the soulchild.

occasions – crazy world

gospel meets 90s r&b and the results are impressive.

paul davis – i go crazy

downtempo weepy later covered by jazz vocalist will downing.

trellini – crazy about you

90s girl trellini wasn’t hugely successful but her one and only album (i think) was nice.

yvette michele – crazy

yvette started off singing about being crazy about a dj, then just decided to be crazy. then decided to sing about a dj again…she only had one album.

 

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.